CAN International Position: Fossil Gas
This CAN position paper primarily addresses fossil gas extraction and the phase-out of fossil gas in the electricity sector, where almost half of all fossil gas is used. Alongside scaled-up energy efficiency, increased electrification and, therefore a growing power sector with clean renewables will be necessary to decarbonize other energy-consuming and fuel-based sectors such as heating in buildings, industry and transport. Hence, phasing out gas in the power sector now and in future is crucial to meeting the Paris climate objectives.
CAN affirms that managing the rapid transition away from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy and combined with strong energy efficiency no later than 2050 is the most crucial element of achieving the Paris climate goals. This means phasing out all fossil fuels including fossil gas. The role of fossil gas in the transition to 100% renewable energy is limited and does not justify an increase in fossil gas production nor consumption, nor investment in new fossil gas infrastructure. We need a managed phase-out of fossil gas in line with Paris climate goals. CAN opposes CCS in the power sector. Therefore, fossil gas is not a “bridge” fuel.
CAN affirms that fossil gas is not a “low carbon” energy source, but in fact “high carbon” when compared to renewable energy sources like wind, solar and geothermal. And even “very” high carbon when accounting for fugitive methane emissions in its production, which are an often-under-apprehended additional climate impact.
CAN acknowledges that fossil gas production and infrastructure expansion often come at the cost of people’s and peoples’ rights, and at the expense of biodiversity. Gas production and infrastructure expansion has impacts beyond the climate crisis. The connections between fossil gas production and human rights and Indigenous Peoples rights violations have been well documented. This is especially true with respect to fossil gas megaprojects in some developing states.
CAN confirms that new fossil gas development is incompatible with limiting global warming to 1.5°C: Even if global coal use were phased out immediately, oil and gas reserves in currently-operating and under-construction projects would push the world beyond 1.5°C. There is no room in our global carbon budget to lock in new gas production, nor the infrastructure that enables or stimulates it.
CAN urges that replacing coal with gas cannot cut emissions fast enough or far enough. Even if methane leakage is minimized, the production, processing and combustion of gas emits large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2). Replacing one fossil fuel with another cannot reduce emissions at the scale and pace that is required.
CAN recognizes that energy efficiency and low-cost wind and solar can displace both coal and gas in the power sector. Wind and solar now outcompetes gas and coal in most markets for bulk electricity production and is generally the most appropriate means to achieve SDG7’s goal of universal access to clean energy, especially where grid infrastructure is not present. Cost is not a prohibitive factor in immediately building out an energy system based on renewable energy.
CAN affirms that gas is not essential for grid reliability and stable load management: Wind and solar require load balancing, but gas is not the only, nor the best resource available for doing so. Managing high levels of wind and solar (both on the local low-voltage distribution as well as the larger high-voltage transmission grid) requires optimizing a wide range of technologies and solutions, and designing energy markets to value and support efficiency and flexible generation, including storage and demand response. The application by grid operators of these technologies have been shown to work in several countries with high wind and solar shares in the power sector, and with low occurrence of black-outs, as well as in the Corona pandemic with highly fluctuating customer demand,.
CAN recognizes that the decarbonization of present non-power sectors like transport requires the full decarbonization of power generation and the electrification of non-power sectors alongside aggressive efficiency improvements. While some non-power sectors, such as certain industrial processes and products or shipping and aviation, are more difficult to decarbonize, this does not provide any justification for decade-long fossil gas continuation or expansion. If fossil gas is phased out in the power sector, and electrification and efficiency are maximised in other sectors, global gas use can only go in one direction: down.
CAN affirms that the development of renewable non-hydrogen gases must be based on sustainable sources, keep methane leaks minimised, and not be dependent on carbon capture and storage (CCS). Hydrogen must be produced with renewable energy to be clean. Gas derived from plant sources may be sustainable in some circumstances, but there are significant problems that must be addressed around this and other forms of bioenergy – including but not limited to issues around food security, biodiversity, and land rights, as well as the direct emissions of burning any such gas.
CAN opposes CCS in the fossil gas sector. We can and must move forward quickly with decarbonization without relying on technologies that are costly and unproven at scale. CCS might have limited use in difficult-to-decarbonize sectors at some point in time in the future once all other decarbonisation options are exhausted, but not in the power sector. It is an unacceptable risk to expand fossil gas production while the practicality and affordability of CCS, as well as the geological permanence of stored CO2, remain highly uncertain, particularly in the full absence of any liability legislation and independent long-term scientific monitoring.
CAN opposes new gas infrastructure projects that lock in additional carbon emissions. Multibillion-dollar gas infrastructure built today is designed to operate for decades to come. The new Gazprom Nordstream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany alone with about 55bcm fossil gas will lead to, including fugitive methane, about 5% of entire EU CO2 emissions for many decades. Therefore, it is important to stop building new fossil fuel infrastructure and instead focus on a fossil fuel phase out. The world’s existing stock of such infrastructure already locks in enough emissions to push the world above 1.5oC. The lifetime emissions of new infrastructure cannot be absorbed into a 1.5oC carbon budget. However, it will be necessary to continue maintenance of existing fossil gas infrastructure as part of a managed phase-out, to address methane leakage and other problems.
CAN opposes international public finance for gas projects. Distributed renewables are a more affordable and cleaner means of providing access to electricity. Very few local jobs are created by fossil gas projects. Governments should not support international fossil gas projects through export credit agencies, development finance agencies or financing provided through Multilateral agreements.
CAN urges that, on the basis of climate justice and capacity to transition, wealthy countries must help poorer countries leapfrog the fossil fuel economy, including fossil gas, by providing adequate climate financing, capacity-building, and technology transfer. Meeting the urgent needs for overcoming energy poverty, clean cooking solutions and affordable and universal access to electricity does not require any expansion in fossil gas production. However, there are still some circumstances where it may be necessary for people in developing countries who face energy poverty and indoor pollution causing high death rates based on traditional but inefficient biomass-based cooking to transition to gas cooking. Even high shares of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) use in this context would increase global CO2 emissions negligibly, by far less than 1 percent. There are many other pockets of high CO2 emissions in wealthier economies that need to be tackled first and cannot be “traded” against immediate human rights needs for basic safe energy for the super-poor in developing countries. In line with equity and a fair share of carbon pollution, wealthier countries need to phase-out fossil gas earlier than developing ones.
CAN urges that all governments and all companies should conduct a carefully managed phase-out of the fossil fuel industry and ensure a just transition for the workers and communities that depend on it. As such, governments should avoid undue influence from fossil gas industries when creating policies for a green and just transition. Political interference from vested interests prevents measures from being taken to solve the climate crisis and can misinform and redirect policies toward solutions that don’t align with science and which undermine ambition.
CAN demands that the plastic crisis is addressed by a continuous reduction and eventual phase out in plastics use and maximization of plastic recycling and reuse, as well as alternative decomposable products. Therefore, the use of the liquid byproducts of gas production for producing plastics feedstocks must be reduced. Demand for plastics is not a reason to maintain gas production.
 We use the term fossil gas to mean gas produced from fossil fuel sources, instead of using the term ‘natural gas’.
 IRENA, 2020, Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2019 (irena.org).
 This is set out in detail in CAN’s position paper on CCS: https://climatenetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/can_position_carbon_capture_storage_and_utilisation_january_2021.pdf.
 A 2019 report tracking progress towards ensuring access to affordable and clean energy (Sustainable Development Goal 7), finds that expanded use of LPG to provide 100% access to clean cooking globally by 2030 would account for up to 0.8% of global oil demand in 2030, under a least-cost scenario. Tracking SDG7: The Energy Progress Report 2019, The World Bank, the International Energy Agency, the International Renewable Energy Agency, the United Nations Statistics Division and the World Health Organization, 2019, p. 114, 2019THE ENERGY PROGRESS REPORT.
Download file: http://CAN-International-Position_Fossil-Gas_May-2021-2.pdf