More than 24,000 km of new pipelines are being developed around the world, a distance equivalent to almost twice the diameter of the Earth, a report has revealed. The projects, led by the United States, Russia, China and India, are “radically at odds with plans to limit global warming to 1.5°C or 2°C”, the researchers said. .
The oil pumped in the pipelines would produce at least 5 billion tons of CO2 one year if completed, equivalent to the emissions of the United States, the world’s second largest polluter. About 40% of the pipelines are already under construction, the rest in planning. Global carbon emissions need to fall by 50% by 2030 to stay on track with internationally agreed targets to limit global warming.
Developers of the 10,000km of pipelines under construction stand to lose up to $75billion (£70billion) if action on the climate crisis prevents new pipelines from being fully utilized, analysts at Global Energy Monitor (GEM) who produced the report. .
Russia, which faces oil and gas boycotts from the west because of the war in Ukraine and wants to increase its exports to India and China, is developing 2,000 km of new pipelines.
Regionally, Sub-Saharan Africa leads the world in pipeline development, with 2,000 km of pipeline already under construction and another 4,500 km proposed. The projects include the controversial East African Crude Oil Pipeline, which will transport oil extracted from a national park in Uganda to an export terminal on the Tanzanian coast.
“For governments approving these new pipelines, the report shows an almost deliberate failure to meet climate targets,” said Baird Langenbrunner of GEM. “Despite climate targets threatening to turn fossil fuel infrastructure into stranded assets, the world’s largest consumers of fossil fuels, led by the United States and China, are doubling down on pipeline expansion.”
The oil industry made record profits last year, according to the report, and is “using this moment of chaos and crisis to push forward massive pipeline system expansions.”
UN Secretary General António Guterres tell the world leaders gathered in New York on Wednesday: “The fossil fuel industry is killing us, and leaders are out of step with their people, who are demanding urgent climate action.”
The Guardian revealed in May that the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies were planning dozens of ‘carbon bomb’ oil and gas projects that would take the climate beyond temperature targets with catastrophic global impacts. In May 2021, the International Energy Agency declared new oil and gas deposits to be incompatible with the world remaining within relatively safe limits of global warming.
The new report found that the length of the pipeline under construction has more than doubled compared to GEM’s 2019 assessment, while the length of the proposed pipeline has been reduced by about half.
The United States is the world leader in developing pipelines. “A major push to increase crude oil export capacity out of the Permian Basin [in Texas and New Mexico] along the Gulf Coast is arguably a watershed moment for the industry, which is gradually losing its social license to build new projects as the impacts of the climate crisis worsen,” the report states.
India is the leader in pipelines under construction, including the 1,630 km Paradip Numaligarh crude pipeline in the northeast of the country, which is expected to come online in late 2024.
Russia aims to increase its oil exports along the Northern Sea Route, which is becoming more accessible as global warming melts Arctic sea ice. The proposed Vostok pipeline is 1,600 km long.
Data on the capacity of new pipelines was only available for two-thirds of the pipelines in the report, but these would transport 30 billion barrels a day for decades if they continued to operate until the end of their life. typical lifespan. Once burnt, this oil would produce 4.6 billion tons of CO2 annually. The GEM analysis did not include projects that had failed to advance its development in the past two years, classifying them separately as shelved.