The Guardian • Issue #2096

The climate wreckers

Photo: Markus Spiske – Unsplash License.

“Australia’s treachery is once again laid bare for all to see. This report cuts through the supposed change in rhetoric on climate by the Albanese government and exposes Australia for what it truly is: a captive of the fossil fuel industry shackled to its insidious agenda,” said Lavetanalagi Seru, Regional Coordinator for Pacific Islands Climate Action Network, referring to a report by Oil Change International (OCI).

The report, New Research Exposes 5 Global North Countries Responsible for 51% of Planned Oil and Gas Expansion Through 2050, identifies Australia as one of the top 5 climate wreckers.

“It’s unfathomable that the Australian government continues to stoke the flames of the climate crisis, despite the brutal scars of unprecedented bushfires and floods etched into its landscape, and with full knowledge of the profound impacts that the fossil fuel industry inflicts upon First Nations communities and the Pacific.

“With the window of opportunity to limit global warming to 1.5°C rapidly closing, a global fossil fuel phase out that is fast, fair and funded must be our paramount priority. Pacific Leaders must strongly insist on Australia to correct course before lending its support to the COP31 bid.” (Australia’s bid to co-host the climate summit in 2026.)

The other top five climate wreckers are the US, Canada, Norway, and the UK. These countries are responsible for 51 per cent of planned oil and gas expansion through to 2050. They have no intention of bearing historical responsibility for their climate crimes, or honouring their Paris commitments.

The largest culprit is the US. It is the largest historical emitter of CO2 and the largest oil and gas producer in the world, responsible for one in every five barrels of oil and gas globally in 2022. In March 2023, the US government approved the largest single oil project, the ConocoPhillips Willow project in Alaska. Production is forecast to reach up to 180,000 barrels of oil a day.

That the wealthiest countries carry an “outsized historical responsibility for causing the climate crisis, while claiming to be climate leaders, is inexcusable.” These countries continue to expand their fossil fuel projects as they hypocritically make commitments to phase out production.

Oil production will reach and remain at record levels from 2024 to 2050. This makes it the height of hypocrisy when the top 20 countries claim to be pursuing net zero emissions. Their greenwashing is based on unproven technologies, unlikely to be up and running in time, if ever.

In another report titled Planet Wreckers: How Countries’ Oil and Gas Extraction Plans Risk Locking in Climate Chaos, OCI points out that “Only 20 countries could be responsible for nearly 90 percent of the carbon-dioxide (CO2) pollution from new oil and gas fields and fracking wells planned between 2023 and 2050.” That would lock in climate chaos and an unliveable future.

“Among these 20 countries, five global north governments stand out as the biggest climate hypocrites and most egregious Planet Wreckers: the United States, Canada, Australia, Norway, and the United Kingdom. Despite having the greatest economic means to rapidly phase out production, they are responsible for a majority (51 per cent) of planned expansion from new oil and gas fields through 2050.”

The scale of oil and gas expansion planned in these 20 countries would make it impossible to hold temperature rise to 1.5°C. Even extracting just the fossil fuels from existing sites globally would result in 140 per cent more carbon pollution than the allowed budget for 1.5°C. If these countries proceed with their new extraction, committed carbon pollution will be 190 per cent over the 1.5°C budget, risking locking in more than a dangerous 2°C of warming.”

Global fossil fuel subsidies were US$7 trillion (AU$10.8tr) in 2022. Compare this to global subsidies by governments for clean energy of US$34 billion between 2020 and 2022.

The majority of clean energy subsidies are going to the wealthier countries, not to where they are most needed.

Governments, including Australia’s, must stop approving new fossil fuel projects and the expansion of existing ones. They should be carrying out a rapid, planned and just transition to renewables. Wealthier countries including Australia should be carrying out their commitments to fund mitigation, adaptation and technology transfer to the global South.

Workers in the fossil fuel sector should be guaranteed retraining, jobs and no loss of income. It is the responsibility of government. The private sector can’t and won’t save humanity. It got us into this mess, and its constant drive for profits will be the destruction of humanity unless governments take strong action now.

The Guardian can also be viewed/downloaded in PDF format. View More