“Policy makers must realise that their instincts to completely use the fossil fuels within their countries are wholly incompatible with their commitments to the 2°C goal” – McGlade & Elkins 2015, in Nature

From mass mobilizations to federal acts and international agreements, efforts to keep fossil fuels in the ground have quickly come to define demands for climate justice.

In May 2016 a global wave of mass actions target the most dangerous fossil fuel projects, calling to break free from coal, oil and gas in the ground and accelerate the just transition to 100% renewable energy. In April, preachers around the United States called on congregations to keep it in the ground in an effort coordinated by the United Church of Christ. Just months earlier, President Obama halted new coal mining leases on public lands. In December 2015, U.S. democrats introduced the “Keep it in the Ground Act of 2015” (S. 2238), a bill that would prohibit the digging or drilling for fossil fuels on federal land or waters. That same month during COP21, indigenous peoples and their allies released a declaration urging world governments to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

These actions are supported by recent research, which concludes that globally, over 80% of coal, 50% of gas and 30% of oil reserves are “unburnable” before 2050 under the goal to limit average temperature rise to no more than 2°C. However, the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement recognizes that a 1.5°C warming limit will better protect the most vulnerable communities from the worst impacts of climate change. Studies show that 1.5°C requires a transition to net zero carbon emissions worldwide to be achieved between 2045 and 2060. This requires that more than 80% of known fossil fuel reserves remain in the ground.

News & Resources

Check out these sources for the latest news related to keeping fossil fuels in the ground.

The Guardian - Keep it in the Ground

guardian keep it in the ground logoThe Guardian’s Keep it in the Ground series covers news about climate change, fossil fuel divestment and renewable energy. Following the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, the series shifted focus to specifically emphasize “hope” and the promise of solar energy, but it remains a good source for updates on keeping fossil fuels in the ground.

Filed under 'Keep it in the Ground'

350.org logoView 350.org’s blog section covering news updates, press releases, and campaigns and projects related to keeping fossil fuels in the ground.

Daily energy and climate briefing

The Carbon BriefCarbon Brief provides engaging coverage with clear, data-driven articles and graphics, including a daily briefing on energy and climate highlights.

A summary of McGlade & Elkin's (2015) results from an aritcle by The Carbon Brief
A summary of McGlade & Elkin’s (2015) results from an aritcle by The Carbon Brief

Articles & Reports

An overview of key academic research and nonprofit reports related to keeping fossil fuels in the ground.

The Geographical Distribution of Fossil Fuels Unused When Limiting Global Warming to 2°C

In the 2015 climate publication most featured in the media, McGlade and Elkins summarize the inconsistency between policy makers’ goal of limiting warming to 2degC and exploiting their territorial fossil fuels. To have at least a 50 per cent chance of keeping warming below 2°C throughout the twenty-first century, the cumulative carbon emissions between 2011 and 2050 need to be limited to around 1,100 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide. Their results suggest that, globally, a third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves and over 80 per cent of current coal reserves should remain unused from 2010 to 2050 in order to meet the target of 2°C.

Keep It in the Ground

Keep It in the Ground is a 2016 report by Sierra Club, 350.org and Greenpeace examines the coal, oil and natural gas deposits around the world that pose the greatest risk to the climate if burned for fuel. Including an overview of efforts by fossil fuel companies and their political allies to develop these resources, the report provides a roadmap for the international climate movement in the post-Paris Agreement world.

Leaving the Oil Under the Amazon: Ecuador's Yasuní-ITT Initiative

Finer et al. (2010) provide a concise overview of Ecuador’s Yasuni-ITT Initiative, a proposal to leave nearly a billion barrels of oil locked beneath Yasuni National Park. This is the first major effort to reverse a trend of oil and gas concessions that now cover vast swaths of the western Amazon, and the authors explore the project’s goals of protecting biodiversity, respecting indigenous peoples’ territory, and combating climate change, as well as challenges such as technical questions regarding the generation of financial resources to replace the forgone oil revenue.

Point of No Return

A 2013 report by Greenpeace, Point of No Return details 14 massive coal, oil and gas projects that would produce as much new carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2020 as the entire US, and delay action on climate change for more than a decade. The report also lays out Greenpeace’s global Energy [R]evolution scenario that shows how to make the transition from coal to renewable power by using existing renewable energy technologies and by increasing energy efficiency.

Photo credit: Rainforest Action Network
Rainforest Action Networks’s 2015 report titled Public Lands, Private Profit

Keep It in the Ground on Public Lands

Policy makers and activists are pushing to end fossil fuel extraction on public lands in the United States. Mining, drilling, and fracking coal, oil, and gas on publicly owned lands accounts for roughly 25% of climate change emissions from the U.S..

Public Lands, Private Profits

Mining, drilling, and fracking coal, oil, and gas on publicly owned lands already accounts for roughly 25% of climate change emissions from the United States. Rainforest Action Network’s 2015 report, Public Lands, Private Profits, reveals an antiquated and opaque federal fossil fuel leasing program administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, which transfers vast amounts of public wealth into private hands by auctioning off public lands and offshore waters for corporate profit.

The Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions of U.S. Federal Fossil Fuels

This report was produced by EcoShift Consulting for the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth. It includes the first-ever estimate of the volume and potential life-cycle greenhouse emissions of nonfederal and publicly owned federal fossil fuels. The results indicate that ending new federal fossil fuel leasing could keep up to 450 billion tons of carbon pollution from the global pool of potential future greenhouse gas emissions. This is more than a quarter of the total global emissions that can be released if the world is to limit global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

Sales of Fossil Fuels Produced from Federal and Indian Lands

This 2015 report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration details the sales of fossil fuels produced on U.S. Federal and Indian lands from FY 2013 and FY 2014.



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