Think tanks launch world’s first public global database on fossil fuels

New Delhi, IndiaEdited By: Nishtha BadgamiaUpdated: Sep 19, 2022, 10:16 PM IST
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Representative photo Photograph:(Reuters)

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The registry named the Global Registry of Fossil Fuels includes data from over 50,000 oil, gas and coal fields in 89 countries.

One-of-its-kind database for tracking the world’s fossil fuel production, oil and gas reserves, and emissions was launched on Monday, said the Carbon Tracker and Global Energy Monitor. Notably, the release of the database and its analysis coincides with the United Nations General Assembly climate talks which began on September 13 and ahead of COP27 which is to be held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, in November. 

In a statement, the two companies collaborating on the project said that this registry was the “first-ever fully transparent” and “public database that tracks fossil fuel production worldwide”. The registry named the Global Registry of Fossil Fuels includes data from over 50,000 oil, gas and coal fields in 89 countries. This reportedly covers 75% of global reserves, production and emissions, this is the first collection of this size made available for public use. 

Although private data is available for purchase, it differs from the public data maintained by the International Energy Agency which tracks what is yet to be burned as it accounts for the demand for fossil fuels. The registry is developed by Carbon Tracker, a non-profit think tank that researches the energy transition and its effect on the financial markets, and the Global Energy Monitor, a San Francisco-based non-governmental organization which tracks a range of global energy projects. 

In an interview, the founder of Carbon Tracker, Mark Campanale said, “Civil society groups have got to get more of a focus on what governments are planning to do in terms of license issuance, both for coal and oil and gas, and actually begin to challenge this permitting process.” He added, that while corporations, investors and scientists already have a certain level of access to this data, he hopes that this will empower groups to hold governments accountable for their actions. 

The kind of data released by the registry can help environmental and climate groups to pressurize their governments and leaders to make changes in their policies that will reduce carbon emissions. And we are in dire need of carbon reductions, said Campanale. 

“We have very little time to address the remaining carbon budget. As long as we’re not measuring what is being produced, it’s incredibly hard to measure or regulate that production,” said Rebecca Byrnes, Deputy Director of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty and one of the people who helped compile the database. 

According to their analysis, the developers indicated that the United States and Russia have enough untapped and underground fossil fuel to exhaust the world’s remaining carbon budget. Which is the remaining carbon the world could emit before some amount of warming occurs, in line with the previous warnings that would be 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

The aforementioned reserves would generate at least 3.5 trillion tonnes of emissions which is more than all the emissions produced since the Industrial Revolution. The database also indicates that we have more carbon than we need as a global community. Therefore, investors and shareholders should hold the decision-makers at the world’s largest oil, gas and coal companies accountable as they are the ones approving new investments in fossil fuel extraction, said Campanale. 
“We’re not kidding ourselves that the registry will overnight result in sort of a massive governance regime on fossil fuels…But it sheds a light on where fossil fuel production is happening to investors and other actors to hold their governments to account,” said Byrnes in an interview. However, the hope is that the investment community “who ultimately own these corporations,” use this data to challenge investment plans which call for expansion on oil, gas and coal projects, said the Carbon Tracker founder. 

(With inputs from agencies)