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Fossil fuel companies’ projections ‘won’t meet global climate goals’

Fossil fuel companies’ projections ‘won’t meet global climate goals’
“Even temporarily exceeding the 1.5C warming would lead to catastrophic impacts and severely weaken our ability to adapt to climate change”

Climate scenarios produced by BP, Royal Dutch Shell, and Equinor on global future energy use are incompatible with Paris Agreement goals for a safe and habitable planet, according to new research.

Global decarbonisation scenarios outlined by the energy companies show delayed reductions in fossil fuel consumption and run the risk of overshooting vital climate goals, according to a study by research organisation Climate Analytics and Imperial College London researchers.

Scenarios are produced by public, commercial and academic institutions and project what future energy requirements, and resultant emissions, would look like.

The scenarios are built by predicting future energy requirements for different economic sectors, such as agriculture and manufacturing, and projecting what energy sources would be needed to supply them, such as fossil fuels, nuclear, or renewable power. These projections of the future energy mix are then used to estimate what the resultant carbon emissions would be.

Fossil fuel companies have produced their own scenarios for future world energy consumption for decades, but in recent years they have moved to include decarbonisation objectives and resulting climate outcomes.

Now, researchers have analysed six scenarios published between 2020 and mid-2021 and calculated what the temperature outcomes for these scenarios are.

In 2015 almost all of the world’s countries pledged to limit global warming to “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels and to strive to keep temperatures at 1.5C by the end of the century as part of the historic Paris Climate Agreement.

The scenarios include four from the oil majors (two from BP, one from Royal Dutch Shell, and one from Equinor), and two developed by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The results show that most of the evaluated scenarios would be classified as ‘Lower 2C pathways’ – pathways that keep peak warming below 2C, with a 66 per cent likelihood or more.

Dr Robert Brecha, co-lead author of the study from Climate Analytics, said: “Most of the scenarios we evaluated would be classified as inconsistent with the Paris Agreement as they fail to limit warming to ‘well below 2C’, let alone 1.5C, and would exceed the 1.5C warming limit by a significant margin.”

Only the International Energy Agency (IEA) Net Zero 2050 scenario is aligned with the criteria for Paris Agreement consistency that the researchers applied in the study.

Bill Hare, CEO and Senior Scientist at Climate Analytics, said: “Even temporarily exceeding the 1.5C warming would lead to catastrophic impacts and severely weaken our ability to adapt to climate change.”

Co-author Dr Robin Lamboll, from the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial, said: “It’s good that traditionally fossil-based institutions are planning for the upcoming transition to clean energy.

<p>Climate goals are vital to limit the impact of the climate crisis </p>

Climate goals are vital to limit the impact of the climate crisis

“However, it’s important that we don’t allow oil companies to mark their own work when providing suggestions for how the world can transition away from fossil fuels in a way that meets the Paris Agreement. It’s also important to be aware of these biases when databases of scenarios like this are used to frame what is possible and what is ‘radical’ in terms of climate goals.”

The study is published today in Nature Communications.