November 14, 2022
CEO Note: COP27 leaders should stop the expansion of offshore oil and gas drilling to help curb climate catastrophe
BY: Andy Sharpless
This week, world leaders are gathered in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt for the 27th United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference (COP27). In the past, heads of state have used COP as a platform to announce a number of new pledges and commitments to curb climate-warming emissions, such as the Paris Climate Agreement. Unfortunately, few commitments have been met. We have not yet delivered the changes needed to protect our planet from climate change’s devastating consequences.
COP27 participants must focus on how to actually deliver results, especially through solutions that reduce global carbon emissions. As with many other climate solutions, our oceans play an important role. In 2019, the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (HLP) reported that five ocean-based solutions can provide about 25% of the greenhouse gas emission reductions needed by 2050 to keep the world’s temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius. Per the UN, 2 degrees of warming will already harm communities and ecosystems around the world. Unfortunately, this is the realistic limit we must aim for; if the globe gets hotter than this, we risk irreversible and dangerous changes. The HLP report did, however, fail to include a very important solution: stopping the expansion of offshore drilling for oil and gas.
Nearly 30% of the world’s oil and gas comes from offshore drilling, a dirty and dangerous practice that threatens marine life and coastal communities, all while exacerbating the climate crisis. Ahead of COP27, Oceana released a new analysis which found that stopping the expansion of offshore drilling could reduce emissions more than any other ocean-based solution. Take a look at this video, which sums up our findings:
Halting the expansion of offshore drilling – combined with phasing down existing production via clean energy policies – would deliver up to 13% of the annual greenhouse gas emission reductions needed to prevent the worst effects of the climate crisis. In total, this move could reduce emissions by 6.3 billion metric tons a year by 2050. That is equal to the annual emissions we would save by removing 1.4 billion cars from the road.
Add in the other ocean-based solutions put forward by the HLP (e.g., protecting marine habitats, safeguarding climate-friendly seafood, improving shipping efficiency, scaling up renewable sources including offshore wind, and improving catch efficiency and fuel use in fishing) and we could reach nearly 40% of the emission reductions needed by 2050 to keep our planet from warming a catastrophic 2 degrees Celsius.
Where to start? Some countries, like Belize, Costa Rica, and Australia (to name a few) have already taken action to prevent the expansion of offshore drilling. A logical place to continue this momentum is in the countries that produce the most offshore oil and gas, which include Saudi Arabia, Norway, Qatar, Iran, Brazil, United States, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and Angola.
At COP27, leaders of these countries and others around the world must take action against fossil fuels now by stopping new offshore drilling and moving toward clean, renewable energy sources like offshore wind. We have all seen the destruction that results from oil spills, which wreak havoc on marine life, coastal ecosystems, and economies with long-lasting effects. In recent years, the world has experienced major oil spills in Peru, the Mediterranean, the United States, and elsewhere. Today, our communities, climate, and oceans are at a tipping point.
The oceans have protected us from the worst impacts of the climate crisis. For our collective future, it’s time we return the favor.