New analysis reveals huge climate cost of controversial fossil gas projects

30th October 2020, London - Fossil gas discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean that have caused a standoff between Greek and Turkish navies cannot be used if the EU is to meet its climate targets, reveals a new Global Witness analysis. 

If the gas found so far is burned, between now and 2050 it will emit as much carbon dioxide as the whole of France and Spain combined emit each year, according to Global Witness’ new report Pyrrhic victory. Likewise, by 2050 it would mean Cyprus’ gas would alone account for 20 percent of what the EU could consume. Global Witness’ calculations rely on information from the oil and gas data firm Rystad Energy.

At the same time, the proposed EastMed pipeline that would transport gas across the disputed water would not only further inflame regional tensions but would accelerate the climate emergency. EastMed is promoted by Greece, Cyprus, and Israel, and is backed by the EU as a “Project of Common Interest” (PCI), which receive fast-track status and are eligible for subsidies from the EU and the European Investment Bank.

If built and used at full capacity, the EastMed pipeline would emit more greenhouse gases in one year than Europe’s worst polluter - the Bełchatów coal-fired power plant in Poland. Between 2025 to 2050, if operating flat out, the pipe’s emissions would be greater than all of Germany’s coal plants over four years combined.  

Jonathan Gant, Senior Gas Campaigner at Global Witness, said:

“At a time when the world is already facing conflict and uncertainty it makes absolutely no sense for countries to be squabbling over a resource that will contribute to climate breakdown and ultimately make the world an even less safe place.” 

“The quickest solution to the rising crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean is for all to agree that the best place for fossil fuels is in the ground. Fighting over fossil fuels is futile; instead we should be fighting climate change.”

“The EU has been quick to talk up its climate credentials but the fact it supports a climate-wrecking project like the EastMed pipeline shows the rhetoric and reality simply don’t match up. It’s clear the process for deciding what energy projects Europe supports is in need of a fundamental overhaul if the EU wants to be a serious player in the fight against climate change."

Greece and Turkey are vying for control over possible new gas deposits, but this gas likely has little value. The EU already has enough gas to meet current demand, and predicts a 90 percent reduction in fossil gas consumption by 2050 if it is to do its part to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 1.5oC.

Global Witness is calling for an immediate diplomatic resolution to the crisis, with all stakeholders acknowledging that they cannot use - and pledging not to drill - the gas over which they are fighting. 

The EastMed Pipeline should be removed from the EU’s list of Projects of Common Interest and the EU and the European Investment Bank should ensure that the project receives no further public subsidies. At the same time, the EU law that supports fossil gas pipelines, which is called TEN-E and is currently under review by the European Commission, should be changed to bar support for fossil gas projects and to curtail the power of the gas industry.  

Key Stats from the Global Witness analysis include:

  • Fossil gas from Eastern Mediterranean waters extracted between now and 2050 would produce as much carbon as France and Spain emit per year
  • In 2050, gas production from the disputed waters could be responsible for 20 percent of all the gas the EU can consume 
  • At full capacity, between now and 2050 the EastMed pipeline could produce more greenhouse gasses than France, Spain and Italy emit per year
  • At full capacity, in one year the EastMed pipeline would emit more greenhouse gases than Europe’s worst polluter - the Bełchatów coal-fired power plant in Poland
  • 577 million tonnes - amount of carbon that Cyprus’ gas could emit between 2030 and 2050 - more than all of Germany’s coal plants combined in 2017 and 2018
  • 960 million tonnes - amount of greenhouse gasses that the EastMed pipeline could emit between 2025-2050 - more than all of Germany’s coal plants combined in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018