New analysis reveals safe pathway for swift ramp down of fossil fuels

Thursday June 10, 2021

Findings underscore SAFE Cities movement’s efforts to block buildout of fossil fuel infrastructure

To meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and remain on a 1.5°C trajectory, nations around the world must ramp down existing fossil fuel use. A new analysis published Thursday, June 10, demonstrates how they can comfortably achieve this transition with existing cost-efficient technology and an abundance of potential renewable energy resources. The analysis underscores the urgency fueling international environmental advocacy group Stand.earth’s SAFE Cities movement, which works to protect public health and the environment by blocking buildout of new fossil fuel infrastructure. 

The new analysis in the Fossil Fuel Exit Strategy shows that the world has more than sufficient renewable energy potential to meet growing demand, and that fossil fuel use can be safely phased out without risk to energy security. It exposes false economic and technical claims that the fossil fuel industry uses to foster public pressure in support of its infrastructure plans.

“The fossil fuel industry constantly places intense pressure on the public to accept its plans to develop new resources and infrastructure,” said Logan McIntosh, campaign director for Stand.earth’s SAFE Cities movement. “This analysis reveals the truth. The barrier to widespread curtailment of fossil fuels and rapid scaling up of renewable energy is not a matter of cost or of technological feasibility—it’s simply a matter of political willpower. In the SAFE Cities movement, we’re seeing powerful examples of community members and their elected officials who have the courage and willpower to stand up against industry pressure tactics, and to enact laws and policies that stop these new infrastructure projects before they’re even proposed.”

Versions of the Fossil Fuel Exit Strategy report are available online in English, French, and Spanish.

Co-authored by Dr. Sven Teske and Dr. Sarah Niklas of the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology, Sydney, the analysis used detailed modeling to examine carbon emissions from existing as well as new fossil fuel projects. It calculated whether these sources fit within the goals of the Paris Agreement. The authors concluded that even if all new fossil fuel projects stopped in 2021 and were never built, the carbon emissions from existing projects would still be too high to meet a 1.5°C climate goal in the next nine years. In fact, emissions would be 25% too high by 2025, and 66% too high in 2030 to meet 1.5°C-compatible targets.

In response to the Fossil Fuel Exit Strategy report, Stand.earth is drawing attention to the report's findings and highlights its SAFE Cities movement to block the buildout of new fossil fuel infrastructure. Already, 71 cities across the U.S. and Canada - and several more internationally - have enacted 88 SAFE Cities-style policies. Elected officials in these communities are leveraging their authority to regulate land use and protect public health to electrify buildings, ban construction of new gas stations, place moratoriums and prohibitions on pipelines, refineries, bulk storage facilities, terminals, and many other projects. In 2021, communities like Seattle, Tacoma, Wash., Sacramento, Calif., and Brookline, Mass., have approved versions of building electrification policies.

Nevertheless, fossil fuel industry lobbyists have teamed up with their political allies in U.S. legislatures to pass a series of laws aimed at preventing community-based action that addresses climate change and protects public health. Legislation prohibiting local governments from adopting their own versions of building electrification ordinances has been introduced in 23 states over the past two years, and 16 of these bills have become law.

Crucially, the Fossil Fuel Exit Strategy’s new findings expand upon a recent special report by the International Energy Agency, which stated that the world no longer needed to invest in expanding fossil fuel infrastructure and production. Fossil Fuel Exit Strategy goes beyond the IEA report: Its detailed modeling proves that ramping down operations of existing coal mines and oil and gas wells and transitioning to renewables is not only required, it’s doable right now.

More key findings from Fossil Fuel Exit Strategy:

  • Any further expansion of the fossil fuel industry will create more infrastructure projects, which run extreme risks of becoming stranded financial assets with catastrophic environmental and humanitarian impacts.
  • Accounting for environmental safeguards, technical feasibility, and land-use constraints, solar and wind resources could provide more than 50 times the amount of energy the world needs.
  • The world has sufficient renewable energy resources to provide 100% renewable energy access on every continent.
  • To remain on a 1.5°C trajectory by 2030, the world's fossil fuel production will need to drop by an average of 9.5% annually for coal, 8.5% annually for oil, and 3.5% percent annually for gas.

More about SAFE Cities:
SAFE Cities is a growing movement of neighbors, local groups, and elected officials phasing out fossil fuels and fast-tracking clean energy solutions to ensure a just transition. Already dozens of cities and counties across the US – and several more around the globe – have passed concrete policies to keep their communities SAFE from fossil fuels, build renewable energy infrastructure, and create good, long-term jobs.

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Media contacts: 
Peter Jensen, SAFE Cities Communications Coordinator, safemedia@stand.earth, +1 415 532 3817 (Pacific Time)
Logan McIntosh, SAFE Cities Campaign Director, logan@stand.earth, +1 604 396 1226 (Pacific Time)