Most fossil fuels 'unusable' under climate change goals
New research means much of the reserves held by major oil and gas companies could become worthless
Global fossil fuel reserves worth trillions of dollars must be left largely untouched if international targets on curbing climate change are to be met, a new study has found.
Research conducted by University College London found that 80 per cent of coal, half of all gas and a third of all oil reserves cannot be used if the world is to keep the global rise in temperature under an internationally agreed 2C safety limit.
"Policy makers must realise that their instincts to completely use the fossil fuels within their countries are wholly incompatible with their commitment to the 2C goal," lead researcher Dr Christophe McGlade told the BBC.
Previous research has stated that burning the world's fossil fuel reserves would release three times the amount of carbon permitted by international agreements.
However, this is the first time scientists have said which fuels in which countries would have to be left unused.
The report found that:
- 82 per cent of global coal reserves cannot be burned, including 92 per cent in the US, 94 per cent in the former Soviet republics and 85 per cent in Africa
- almost half of all gas reserves must be left untouched, including all of the reserves in the Arctic as well as the majority in the Middle East, China and India
- a third of global oil reserves cannot be used, including all Arctic reserves, the majority in Canada and 38 percent in the Middle East.
Major oil and gas companies, including BP, Chevron and Anglo American now face the risk that "significant parts of their reserves will become worthless", The Guardian reports.
Rob Bailey, research director for energy, environment and resources at Chatham House said that the report would make uncomfortable reading for governments and private companies across the globe.
"The recently heralded golden age of gas will be short-lived if we are to avoid dangerous climate change," he warned.