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Fossil Fuel Fighting Change - Report

FILE: Representative illustration of oil rigs, taken May 14, 2020
FILE: Representative illustration of oil rigs, taken May 14, 2020

Oil and gas companies are spending tens of billions of dollars on new fossil fuel production that would push global temperatures to catastrophic levels, research found Thursday.

An analysis by the financial think tank Carbon Tracker found that fossil fuel firms approved $166bn of investment in new oil and gas fields between January 2021 and March this year.

Almost all of that expenditure is incompatible with the Paris Agreement's more ambitious target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius since the pre-industrial era, the report said.

And around a third of the total -- some $58 billion -- was committed by Chevron, Eni, Shell, TotalEnergies and others to projects that would imply demand for oil and gas pushing global temperatures beyond 2.5C.

"Oil and gas companies are marketing themselves as part of the solution to climate change while simultaneously planning production increases that would lead to climate catastrophe," said report author Thom Allen, an oil and gas analyst at Carbon Tracker.

The report used decarbonization pathways set out by the International Energy Agency (IEA), which says no new long-lead oil or gas fields are compatible with 1.5C and consumption must fall rapidly.

But Carbon Tracker said most companies are planning to increase production, potentially locking in high carbon emissions for decades.

Projects highlighted include the $10 billion Lake Albert oilfield development in Uganda led by TotalEnergies and a $12 billion liquified natural gas project in Western Australia being developed by Woodside.

These "high cost and large" projects are of particular concern because they would take a long time to build and likely have a longer production period, said report co-author Mike Coffin, Carbon Tracker's head of oil, gas and mining.

Of the major fossil fuel firms, the report said only BP was planning production broadly in line with Paris goals -- with a reduction of 43 percent by 2030.

That compares with European firms Eni, Shell and TotalEnergies, which only plan to reduce oil -- while increasing gas.

Carbon Tracker calculates that TotalEnergies' overall fossil fuel production will be 13 percent higher in 2030 than in 2019.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has stoked a "dash for gas" that scientists have warned imperils global efforts to stop warming exceeding 1.5C.

Carbon Tracker said although the crisis has pushed up energy prices -- and oil and gas profits -- it has also led to increased recognition of renewables as a cheaper and more secure power source.

"It's becoming ever clearer that renewables provide a solution to affordable and secure energy in the medium to long term," Coffin told AFP.