Fossil fuels database tracks reserves, production, emissions

A flare burns at Venture Global LNG in Cameron, La. (AP File Photo/Martha Irvine)

A unique database tracking global fossil fuel production, reserves and emissions, launched Monday to coincide with climate talks at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The Global Registry of Fossil Fuels includes data from over 50,000 oil, gas and coal fields in 89 countries, covering 75% of global reserves, production and emissions. The tool is open to the public, a first for a collection of this size.

There was already private data available for purchase, as well as an analysis of global fossil fuel consumption and reserves. The International Energy Agency also maintains public data on oil, gas and coal, but focuses on demand for those fossil fuels, while the new database includes fuels that are still underground.

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The register was developed by Carbon Tracker, a non-profit think tank researching the impact of the energy transition on financial markets, and Global Energy Monitor, an organization that tracks a variety of energy projects around the world.

It allows anyone with a computer and internet access to view coal, oil and gas reserves with a resolution not previously possible. Users can see the carbon emissions they would produce if burned – at global, country or field level.

You can get a sense of the role fossil fuel production has played in different economies. You can simulate the transition away from fossil fuels in four scenarios: continuation of current trends, governments delivering on their commitments, governments following UN Sustainable Development Goals, and the world reaching net-zero by 2050.

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“It’s a first-ever tool that’s fully transparent, open-source and available to all,” Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, said of the registry in a news conference on Monday. “And as you build it, for every little bit we can find at UNEP, we will mine it for us to use as well.”

Mark Campanale, founder of Carbon Tracker, said he hopes the register will empower groups to hold governments accountable, for example when they issue licenses to extract fossil fuels.

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“Civil society groups need to focus more on what governments are up to in terms of licensing both coal and oil and gas and actually start challenging that licensing process,” Campanale told The Associated Press.

The release of the database and an accompanying analysis of the data collected coincides with two international climate negotiations – the UN General Assembly in New York, which opened on Monday, and November’s COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. The data, like those being published in the register, could arm environmental and climate groups to pressure national leaders into agreeing to tougher policies that result in lower carbon emissions.

And we desperately need CO2 reductions, Campanale said.

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