The UK has the most fossil fuel sites in nature protected areas, according to a study. The study also found that there are 3,000 fossil fuel extraction and exploration sites in protected areas around the world.
More than 800 areas created to protect the environment are impacted globally by the activities. If fully utilised, the fossil fuel sites’ coal, oil, and gas reserves would produce 47 billion tonnes of climate-warming carbon dioxide, or four times China’s annual emissions, the world’s largest polluter.
These locations include coalmines, oil and gas wells, fossil fuel development sites, and sites with exploration permits.
“Every single one of these sites is a sign of hypocrisy, saying on one hand that this area is worthy of protection and then on the other hand, bringing fossil fuel extraction into those same areas,” according to Alice McGown, a geographic information expert at the Leave it in the Ground Initiative (Lingo), which produced the study.
The UK also ranked among the top 12 in the list of potential CO2 emissions from fossil fuel activities in protected areas. China, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia topped the list of potential CO2 emissions.
“Britain has many offshore extraction sites within internationally recognised protected areas in the North Sea and what’s really worrying is that they’re developing even more right now,” said McGown.
The United Arab Emirates, which is among the top 12 nations, will preside over the UN’s annual climate summit in November and December and has oil and gas operations in the Marawah biosphere reserve, a haven for sea turtles, and corals.
“The UK’s expert regulators consider and assess the environmental impacts, including to habitats, before any decisions on new oil or gas projects. We know oil and gas will continue to be needed now and in the coming years as we scale up renewables and new nuclear to boost Britain’s energy security and bring down bills in the long term,” a spokesperson for the UK Department for Energy Security and Net Zero said.
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