There is a growing recognition that if we are to avoid dangerous climate change, most fossil fuel reserves will need to be left in the ground. Achieving this outcome, however, will be 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.

Climate policy-makers, both at the domestic and international levels, have focused almost exclusively on curtailing demand for fossil fuels energy, with scant attention, until recently, to the supply side. Research by SEI and others suggests that, for economic and political reasons, effective climate change mitigation requires both demand- and supply-oriented approaches.

We need to better understand how the institutions, investments and infrastructure that support fossil fuel production can lock in dependence on fossil fuels, and identify strategies to help societies move away from such dependency. Such insights can help policy-makers, international organizations, businesses and civil society to develop more effective climate strategies.

Oil rigs in western North Dakota, an area transformed by the shale oil boom. Flickr / Geof Wilson
Oil rigs in western North Dakota, an area transformed by the shale oil boom. Flickr / Geof Wilson

This SEI Initiative aims to create a platform for high-quality, timely, and policy-relevant research and communications on various facets of fossil fuel development, and its implications for climate change mitigation and development. Building on ongoing SEI activities and partnerships, the initiative will take a multi-disciplinary approach, focusing on issues such as:

  • emissions implications of new fossil fuel infrastructure;
  • constraints on fossil fuel development (e.g. water availability, local community impacts and competing pressures);
  • geopolitical dynamics of fossil-fuel interests at national and international levels;
  • domestic and international policy options for inducing a shift away from economic dependence on fossil-fuel production, taking into account equity perspectives and development needs.

The initiative builds on ongoing SEI work on fossil fuel development, geopolitics, and economy and climate, which has involved extensive new research and analysis and produced several publications. The initiative also builds on SEI’s partnerships and knowledge-sharing and capacity-building activities around the world, and will engage recognized leaders on climate change mitigation, energy modelling, political economy, equity and the climate change negotiations.

Our goal is to build a thriving community of practice and to contribute to practical policy development and implementation at the national and international levels.

Second conference set for 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 will build on the growing interest in whether and how climate policy should seek to limit the supply of fossil fuels. It will bring 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.


See the 2018 Conference themes

Watch 2016 session videos on YouTube

Conference Partners


On March 14, 2018, SEI and Grupo Laera hosted a workshop in Bogota, Colombia on coal transitions.

The workshop, held under the auspices of SEI’s Fossil Fuels and Climate Change Initiative, 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.