Countries scrambling this year to source more natural gas to replace supplies from Russia are risking years of emissions that could thwart climate goals the Paris Agreement target of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, according to scientists.

This finding by them was revealed in a study of research collaboration Climate Action Tracker (CAT) on the sidelines of UN climate talks known as COP27 in Egypt on Thursday.

Efforts to stave off disastrous climate change collided this year with a global energy crisis of scarce gas and soaring fuel prices, as Russia sharply cut gas deliveries to Europe following its February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

“We’re witnessing a major push for expanded fossil gas LNG production and import capacity across the world – in Europe, Africa, North America, Asia and Australia – which could cause global emissions to breach dangerous levels,” said Bill Hare, CEO of research institute Climate Analytics, which contributed to the study.

The planned projects could emit 10% of the world’s remaining carbon budget – the cumulative amount that can be emitted if warming beyond 1.5°C is to be avoided, CAT said. Among the projects are new gas drilling in Canada and liquefied natural gas (LNG) import capacity in Germany and Vietnam.

In 2030, LNG could surge 500 million tons, equivalent to nearly five times the European Union’s 2021 Russian gas imports, and double total global Russian exports.

The resulting emissions — some two billion tons of CO2 every year by 2030 — is incompatible with pathways to a carbon neutral world by mid-century, including one laid out by the International Energy Agency (IEA).  

Countries agreed under the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change to attempt to stop greenhouse gases from heating the planet to more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Scientists have said going past 1.5°C of warming would unleash far more severe climate impacts than the deadly wildfires, floods and rising seas already unfolding today. Currently, the world is 1.2°C hotter than pre-industrial levels.

By October, Russian gas had plummeted to 7.5% of Europe’s gas imports, down from 40% in recent years.

The dash to replace those supplies has bolstered plans to expand fossil fuel infrastructure, even as the EU has proposed higher renewable energy targets to attempt to mostly replace Russian fuel with clean energy.

The IEA has said no new oil and gas fields should be opened if the world is hit the 1.5°C goal.

CAT also calculated that countries’ targets to cut emissions this decade would put the world on course for 2.4°C of warming, versus 1.8°C in a best-case scenario where countries achieved all of their announced pledges including 2050 goals – which would require tougher climate policies and far larger investments to shift to green energy.

Annual projections of how much government plans and pledges will curb global warming show virtually no movement compared to a year ago.

Few governments have increased their short-term targets or made new longer horizon “net zero” commitments since the COP26.

All countries honouring their carbon pledges so far under the 2015 Paris treaty would see the rise in global temperatures top out at 2.4°C above pre-industrial levels.

With nearly 1.2°C of warming to date, the world has seen a rapid crescendo of deadly and costly heat waves, floods, droughts and storm surges made worse by rising seas.

FAO emissions plan to launch by 2023

The UN food agency aims to launch a plan within the year to make the world’s food system more sustainable, a senior executive said.

The plan would show how the food industry and farming can align with the world’s goal of capping global warming at 1.5°C, Food and Agriculture Organization Deputy Director Zitouni Ould-Dada said.

The hope is that such a plan would act in a similar way to the release of a report for the energy sector by the IEA.

IAEA hopes no waste recycling surge

Recycling radioactive waste from nuclear power has security and cost challenges but the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would be able to monitor the process should more countries take that path, the IAEA head said on Wednesday.

But Rafael Grossi said if new countries pursue reprocessing, the IAEA will work to ensure it is safe.

World leaders to skip key biodiversity talks in Dec

World leaders will not attend high-stakes UN biodiversity talks in Montreal next month, a top official said on Thursday, despite fears their absence could scupper major breakthroughs at the meeting.

Hopes are high that a new global biodiversity framework will be agreed at the talks, dubbed COP15, despite a long list of targets that have yet to be agreed.

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