New report finds Europe can ill afford its gas addiction

A report by two respected climate scientists says the EU’s plans for natural gas as an energy source are incompatible with its commitment to the 2015 Paris climate accord. The report’s authors say Europe has just nine years left to burn fossil fuels at the current rate if global temperatures are to stay below a 2°C increase.

The Paris agreement sets out common goals to keep the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and ‘to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C’. Within this commitment, the EU must tighten existing targets to ensure both that Europe makes a fair contribution to global burden sharing, and that the distribution within the EU is fair. The EU currently sees natural gas as a bridging fuel that can help in the transition to a low-carbon economy, despite evidence indicating otherwise.

Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE) commissioned Kevin Anderson and John Broderick of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in Manchester to quantify the maximum level of EU natural gas consumption compatible with existing EU targets and the Paris agreement. Their report, Natural gas and climate change, was published on 7 November, along with another FoEE report, Can the climate afford Europe’s gas addiction?

Anderson and Broderick say that to meet its Paris 2°C commitment the EU needs more than a 12% reduction in fossil fuel use every year, starting immediately. And they are blunt about the need to rethink the role of gas: ‘There is categorically no role for bringing additional fossil fuel reserves, including gas, into production ... An urgent programme to phase out existing natural gas and other fossil fuel use across the EU is an imperative of any scientifically informed and equity-based policies designed to deliver on the Paris agreement.’

T&E’s analysis and climate manager, Carlos Calvo Ambel, said: ‘The message from this report is very clear: gas is a bridge to nowhere. Instead of spending money on new LNG infrastructure for trucks and ships the Commission should use its sizeable investment budget to support the transition to zero emission technology and infrastructure in both the transport and energy sectors.’

Gas is composed mostly of methane which has a much greater warming effect than CO2. If unburned methane escapes into the atmosphere its effect is 34 times that of CO2. Methane leakage is a significant issue in gas supply chains.