Coal, gas, and oil ‘carbon bombs’ still undermine climate targets

Despite all efforts to combat global warming, the 425 most polluting coal, gas, and oil projects in the world have not been completed in recent years. On the contrary. International media research has shown that the world still has 425 ‘carbon bombs’ – 195 oil and gas projects and 230 coal mines.

Now, what exactly is a ‘carbon bomb’? Any coal, oil, or fossil gas project with the potential to emit over a gigaton of CO2 is a carbon or climate bomb. Today, there are 425 of them around the world.

Over a third of them are currently being prepared and have not yet started extraction. Defusing them is essential for meeting the Paris Agreement climate targets. The four countries with the most significant number of carbon bombs are China, the United States, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.

No progress, but regression

Last year, more than 70 NGOs and action groups gathered after the publication of the data to combat and ‘demine’ the 425 ‘climate bombs’, but new journalistic research, in which newspaper De Tijd, among others, collaborated, reveals that no progress, but regression has been made since 2020.

Instead of dismantling projects, at least 20 more carbon bombs have gone into production over the past three years. New coal mines have started in China, and the production at existing mines has increased. Other ‘bad examples’ are found in Russia, Australia, and Africa.

There is also an expansion in oil exploration in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Latin America. Hardly two of the 425 carbon bombs appear to have been discontinued.

Climate targets

According to the researchers’ estimations, currently, 128 projects that have not started could still be stopped. And if we don’t defuse those fossil fuel bombs, they threaten to blow up the climate targets.

The most significant expansion is happening in China, with 141 projects worldwide (of which 130 are coal mines), accounting for a third of all carbon bombs. It is no coincidence that China accounts for more than half of the world’s 230 carbon bomb coal mines.

Most CO2 pollution in Asia

About two-thirds of China’s electricity is generated by coal, and the country intends to prevent new power shortages. No fewer than 264 of the 425 carbon bombs in the world are in Asia. Therefore, the most significant CO2 pollution will probably occur in Asia in the coming years.

The focus in Europe, with 41 of the 52 projects, is Russia. Belgium, France, and the Netherlands don’t have any carbon bombs; Germany, on the other hand, has Hambach and Garzweiler, the two immense lignite mines of the energy giant RWE. Other European climate bombs are in Bulgaria, Denmark, Greece, Norway, Poland, Serbia, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.

US second most polluting country

With 28 carbon bombs, the US is not in total of bombs, but in quantity, the most polluting country in the world after China. Together, the projects have a potential emission of more than 151 gigatons of CO2 during their remaining lifespan.

In terms of numbers, Russia, with 41 carbon bombs, has more than the 28 in the US. Australia, like Saudi Arabia, has 23 carbon bombs, although the ones in Saudi Arabia can still cause twice as many emissions during their lifespan as the Australian ones.

The fossil fuels in Belgium also partly come from carbon bombs elsewhere. Last year, the Belgian energy dependence on other countries was 74,1%. Belgian crude oil mainly comes from OPEC countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Russia, and more than 60% of the natural gas the country imports for its own consumption comes from Norway.

Most significant energy concerns

The energy companies that manage the most carbon bombs are Chinese players, such as the China Energy Investment Corp or the Chemical Industry Group, but also the French TotalEnergies, the American ExxonMobil, the state oil company Saudi Aramco, the Russian Gazprom, the Norwegian Equinor, and the National Iranian Oil Company.

The fact that large companies still see value in these projects is because fossil fuels are currently impossible to eliminate from our lives.


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