Most fossil fuel reserves will need to be left in the ground if we are to avoid dangerous climate change and meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping global warming “well below” 2°C. This is a daunting challenge. For many countries, fossil fuel extraction and trade are central to energy security and economic development. There is also limited knowledge about climate-related policy interventions that might affect future patterns of fossil-fuel production.
The SEI Initiative on Fossil Fuels and Climate Change advances knowledge on this topic, both through research and by helping build a “community of practice” on the connection between fossil fuel supply, climate change, and development. It builds on SEI’s partnerships and capacity-building activities around the world, engaging recognized leaders on climate change mitigation, energy modelling, political economy, equity and the climate change negotiations.
The Initiative investigates:
- The emissions implications of new fossil fuel production, and the risks and benefits of policies that might curtail them
- How political economy shapes decisions about fossil fuel development in individual countries
- The role of international institutions and governance on addressing fossil fuel supply, including how the supply side can be better integrated into the UNFCCC process and how fossil fuels intersect with SDGs
- How a transition away from fossil fuels can address equity concerns and development needs, especially in communities currently dependent on fossil fuel production
Through this research, policy-makers, international organizations, businesses and civil society gain a better understanding of how the institutions, investments and infrastructure that support fossil fuel production can lock in dependence on fossil fuels – and how societies can move away from such dependency. Through communications, SEI is raising the profile of supply-side climate policy, both in the literature and among policy-makers
The Initiative’s work serves as a foundation for debates and discussions on local, national and international scales. The Initiative has established the International Conference on Fossil Fuel Supply and Climate Change – held in 2016 and 2018, with multiple partners and sponsors – which brings together policy-makers, researchers, and civil society actors to spark new ideas, new research and new connections.
Its research also contributes to local and regional debates on fossil fuel production. Recent reports, for example, tackle topics such as how Colombia can plan for a future without coal and the complex dynamics surrounding Indonesia’s coal production, as well as how Canada’s oil sands can contribute to carbon lock-in and how limiting oil production can help California meet its climate goals. A journal article in Climatic Change examines whether constraining US fossil fuel production would affect global CO2 emissions.
The Initiative’s work on international institutions and governance includes journal articles, op-eds and policy briefs. An article in Climate Policy, for example, outlined reasons why it is important to address fossil fuel supply under the UNFCCC, and a policy brief served as a submission to the UNFCCC Talanoa Dialogue. The initiative (and SEI) participated in the Dialogue in a session on “Where do we want to go?”
The Initiative is also examining how social mobilization factors into climate change policy-making. A recent article in Climate Policy explored the influence of social movements on policies that constrain fossil fuel supply.
This work has helped raise awareness of the need to look at both supply and demand when crafting climate change policies. The body of research on this topic continues to grow, and policy-makers have begun to enact policies aimed at limiting fossil fuel supply – such as moratoriums on further offshore development in New Zealand and France.
Our goal is to continue to deepen understanding, build a thriving community of practice, and contribute to practical policy development at the national and international levels.
As the UN climate negotiations approach, a paper in Nature Climate Change highlights a growing movement by governments to leave oil resources “in the ground”.
The conference will bring together academics and practitioners to discuss whether and how climate policy should seek to limit the supply of fossil fuels.
Deforestation and corruption are among the problems Indonesia faces as its coal mining sector expands.
The continued expansion of Canada’s oil sands could slow the world’s transition to a low-carbon future, according to a new SEI report.
California has numerous options to limit oil production and send a timely and important signal on climate, according to a new analysis.
Ending the production of coal, oil and natural gas from public lands and waters could significantly reduce CO2 emissions by the US, according to a new study.
A proposed methanol plant in Washington State could increase global greenhouse gas emissions and is likely inconsistent with a low-carbon future.
Norway has some of the most ambitious emissions policies in the world, but is opening oil fields that cannot pay back in a safe climate future.
A Bureau of Ocean Energy Management report shows ceasing new Arctic and Gulf of Mexico drilling could decrease global CO2 by over 2 billion tonnes cumulatively.
SEI and Earth Track finds that at 50 USD per barrel, federal and state incentives are decisive in the economic viability of 45% of new crude oil resources.
Some stand to lose out in the transition away from fossil fuels unless policies that address inequality and injustice are put in place.
As debate continues over limiting oil production, SEI scientists Peter Erickson and Michael Lazarus weigh in on the finer points.
The UN deal doesn’t mention coal, oil or gas, but it can still be used to limit their extraction.
SEI Scientist Georgia Piggot, who participated in the Talanoa Dialogue, explains the nuts, bolts and ambitions of this UNFCCC storytelling event.
The past decade has seen the rise of the "keep-it-in-the-ground" movement. What influence will it have on climate policy?
While some of the political dynamics of the coal sector are very specific to Colombia, there are important lessons for transitions away from coal extraction.
Leaders need to start addressing coal, oil and gas production as well as greenhouse gas emissions to prevent dangerous climate change.
Can the international trade system reform fossil fuel subsidies to relieve costs, reduce pollution, improve energy security and tackle climate change?
Efforts to slow the expansion of fossil-fuel infrastructure can forestall entrenched interests and emissions until more far-reaching policies are in place.
The Marrakech talks may not have tackled the gap between global climate goals and fossil fuel production, but governments can show leadership now.
This paper finds that California could reduce global emissions substantially if it joined a growing list of governments that limit oil production.
This policy brief explores what a sudden decline in coal demand could mean for Colombia, and how the country can ensure a smooth transition away from coal.
What are the practical, political and ethical challenges in supply-side climate policy?
This article outlines why it is important that Parties to the Paris Agreement explicitly address the phasing out of fossil fuel production under the UNFCCC.
This paper explores the complex dynamics that could affect Indonesia’s future coal production and export levels.
Current and future oil sands projects may contribute to a long-term global oversupply of oil, slowing the necessary low-carbon transition outside Canada.
This brief explains the rationale for considering fossil fuel supply under the UNFCCC Talanoa Dialogue, and highlights available policy options.
This brief examines how California could limit the production of its principal energy production and the resulting implications for global GHG emissions.
This article examines the emissions implications of a cessation of new leases for fossil fuel extraction on U.S. federal lands and waters.
This discussion brief explores the possibility of a “climate test” for new industrial development by focusing on a case study in the US State of Washington.
Analysis of the political factors that shape subsidies to coal extraction in Colombia, and why and how those subsidies have been promoted.
This journal article describes the growing movement to restrain fossil fuel development and explores the role it plays in climate change policy-making.
How can countries phase-down fossil fuel production within the current architecture of the Paris Agreement?
How can countries more explicitly address the phasing out of fossil fuel production within the current architecture of the Paris Agreement?
This discussion brief evaluates how two tax support measures will boost future oil and gas production in Norway, increasing the country’s fossil fuel exports an
This discussion brief examines the political economy of large-scale coal production in Colombia and its implications for a transition away from coal.
Este resumen de discusión examina la economía política de la extracción de carbón a gran escala en Colombia y sus implicaciones para la transición energética.
This article discusses the possible role of the UNFCCC in tackling fossil fuel subsidies.
The implications of the Paris Agreement, and Norway’s own pledges under it, for oil production, considering the break-even cost of developing different fields
The effect of subsidies on U.S. oil production, focusing on fields that have been discovered but not yet developed, and the climate implications.
Second conference held 24-25 September 2018 at The Queen’s College, Oxford, UK
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion is a top priority for climate and energy policies. However, such policies have yet to put fossil fuel use on a trajectory consistent with keeping warming well below 2°C, let alone 1.5°C. Recognizing this shortcoming, policy-makers, researchers and civil society actors have begun to consider and enact a new suite of complementary policies and actions that aim to phase down fossil fuels in a more comprehensive way – by also limiting fossil fuel extraction.
The International Conference on Fossil Fuel Supply and Climate Policy explores the many opportunities for, and challenges of, these supply-side strategies for limiting coal, oil, and gas, recognizing that many countries rely on fossil fuel extraction and trade for their energy security, economic development, and political influence.
The first conference, held in 2016, sparked new ideas, research and connections among finance specialists, industry representatives, international organizations, civil society, and academic researchers. This second two-day conference built on the growing interest in whether and how climate policy should seek to limit the supply of fossil fuels. It brought together researchers and practitioners to reflect on lessons learned and continue the discussion on how policies, plans and investment decisions on fossil fuel extraction and trade can be more consistent with long-term climate goals, and how a just transition away from the fossil fuel economy can be secured.
On March 14, 2018, SEI and Grupo Laera hosted a workshop in Bogota, Colombia on coal transitions.
The workshop, held under the auspices of the SEI Initiative on Fossil Fuels and Climate Change, was titled “Dialogues: preparing for a global decline in coal consumption. Building resilient regional economies in times of transition.” It aimed to generate debate on an issue that has attracted little attention in public and academic debates so far in Colombia: how to prepare for a scenario in which coal production declines?
Building on insights from other parts of the world that have experienced coal transitions or other types of mining closure, the workshop explored the challenges that lie ahead as regions start to comprehend what a future decline in coal production might mean for decisions about regional development policies. It also explored the role of different actors in supporting coal transitions and building socio-economic resilience in coal-producing areas.
The workshop’s participants included a wide range of public officials from the national and subnational levels, researchers, and representatives of civil society organizations, as well as aid agencies and private foundations.
A policy brief based on the insights of this workshop can be found here.