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.

Videos: SEI / YouTube .

Second conference held 24-25 September 2018 at The Queen’s College, Oxford, UK

See the programme

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.

See the 2018 Conference themes

Watch the 2018 Conference on YouTube

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 Cerrejón mine in Colombia

The Cerrejón mine in Colombia. Photo: Tanenhaus / Flickr .

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.