Global Fossil Fuel Exploration Moratorium

If we can only use 16% of the known fossil fuel reserves, there is no reason to keep on looking for more!

Global Exploration Moratorium

The carbon budget for a good chance of staying well below 2°C global warming is 473 Gt of CO2 in 2016. We have over 500% of that carbon budget in terms of conventional oil, gas and coal reserves. What is clear today is that looking for more fossil fuels needs to stop. Allowing it to continue is like allowing a child to buy more sweets, when we already know its teeth are rotten and it has diabetes. A moratorium would be a straightforward way to stop these activitiesOilwatch has called for a moratorium on new fossil exploration since 1997 and again in 2002, before the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development. An Exploration Moratorium could be one of the major steps on the road to decarbonization and phasing out fossil energy. Other steps are: grid parity of renewable energy, removing fossil fuel subsidies, halt to extreme energy projects, a stop to new fossil energy infrastructure and finally a halt to new fossil exploitation.

Here you can sign our call for an exploration moratorium:                                                      

The following initiatives point in the same direction:

  1. The Antarctic has a moratorium in place for mining projects (Article 7 of the Environmental Protocol of the Antarctic Treaty).
  2. Costa Rica has a moratorium on oil exploration in place, that was recently extended to 2021, the year by which Costa Rica intends to be carbon neutral as well.
  3. The International Council on Mining and Metals has committed its members (including the World Coal Association) to not explore nor mine in World Heritage Sites and “respect legally designated protected areas“.
  4. A strong international campaign calls for banning oil drilling in the Arctic Sea.
  5. Oilwatch and EJOLT have argued for a halt to exploitation in protected areas and on indigenous lands.
  6. The discussion on a moratorium has been started in Panamá and Ecuador.
  7. Beyond Zero Emissions has called for a moratorium on new fossil projects in Australia (see chapter 8).
  8. Moratoria on fracking exist in an uncountable number of jurisdictions globally and the Global Frackdown has called for a global ban on fracking.
  9. Palen et al. have called for a moratorium on tar sands projects in an article in Nature.
President of Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solís signs extension of oil moratorium until 2021.

So, why keep on looking for new oil, gas and coal? In the past, the fossil extractive industries were the horse that powered the growth of our economies. A lot of money was earned and this is still the case today in this heavily subsidised sector. But this is something that will change sooner or later. The G20 have already pledged to remove fossil fuel subsidies, but continue to do the opposite: subsidising exploration with 88 billion USD per year. Besides generating diminishing returns, today’s exploration efforts push the fossil frontier into sensitive environments such as the Arctic, rainforests and the deep seas – with increasing economic and ecologic costs. Today’s newly discovered oil, gas and coal tends to be very energy intensive to extract. From a global perspective, we are spending a lot of the available (as opposed to “unburnable”) fossil reserves on exploring something we cannot use anyway. This increases the carbon bubble. This energy and money would be better invested in achieving the clean energy transition.

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls for a stop to fossil fuel exploration and a redirection of its funds towards clean energy (jump to his call to freeze exploration).

Everyone can play a role in moving this issue forward:

  • NGOs and Individuals can research the situation in their country and make the case for a national moratorium;
  • Celebrities and Journalists can spread the idea;
  • Governments can stop issuing new licenses immediately;
  • Parliaments can pass legislation to prohibit new exploration and withdraw existing licenses to avoid the waste of society’s resources and a lock-in of fossil energy dependency;
  • Investors can pull out of exploration companies and exert pressure on fossil fuel companies to adapt their strategic direction;
  • Businesses can come up with transition strategies out of high-risk, carbon intensive sectors – dismantling their exploration departments and opening energy transition departments instead.

We would like to write a background report on the Global Moratorium on Fossil Fuel Exploration and are looking for partners. If you would like to collaborate, please get in touch.