Report: Oil pipeline plans would jeopardise Paris Agreement

While the number and length of oil pipelines operating has fallen since 2010, the global stock could grow to an unprecedented scale and undermine efforts to limit the global temperature increase, a new report is warning.


Report: Oil pipeline plans would jeopardise Paris Agreement

Pictured: The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System

Published by the Global Energy Monitor (GEM), which tracks energy generation and distribution infrastructure and investment, the ‘Crude Awakening’ paper states that the oil industry has more than 24,000km of new oil pipelines in development, with more than 10,350km already under construction.

State-owned companies including the China National Petroleum Corporation, Indian Oil Corporation, Government of Zambia and Iraq Ministry of oil are major contributors to these plans, along with corporations such as TotalEnergies, ConocoPhillips and Tullow Oil.

The US and India are tied for the most new pipeline capacity by length, at around 2,800km each. In India, 1,630km are already in construction. The US’s capacity is largely proposed but not yet under construction, with 137km only under construction at this point.

Rounding out the top ten nations for most new pipeline capacity are China, Russia, Tanzania, Canada, Iran, Niger, Kenya and Iraq. Russia, GEM states, is likely to export oil from these pipelines to India and China as it faces boycotts from European and North American nations.

Regionally, GEM has found that Sub-Saharan Africa is leading the world in planned pipeline developments in terms of length. This is a cause for concern as, historically, the region has not been a major contributor to global emissions – yet it faces challenges with energy access. Some 74-77% of the population is without access to electricity, according to the International Energy Agency. Moreover, more than 80% of the population is without access to clean cooking fuels and technologies.

GEM is warning that there are two likely outcomes facing pipeline development. Either it is allowed to go ahead, and the world’s chances of meeting the Paris Agreement’s temperature limits are dashed, or developers will face billions of dollars of losses through stranded assets if stronger climate policies and direct action prevent build-out.

On the former, oil pumped through the pipelines would produce at least five billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually, if all of them are completed, by GEM’s estimates.

On the latter, GEM is estimating that developers collectively face stranded asset risks of up to $75.4bn in the low-carbon transition.

GEM is accusing Governments paying for, or otherwise supporting, the pipelines, of an “almost deliberate failure” to deliver on international climate agreements.

The report comes less than two months ahead of COP27, when delegates will meet in Egypt to update each other on their Paris Agreement plans and forge new commitments on climate mitigation and adaptation. The summit will begin on 6 November in Sharm El Sheikh.

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