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Reuters interview with Jan-Peter Onstwedder on oil and gas reserves

Reuters reported an interview with Jan-Peter Onstwedder, formerly BP’s most senior risk manager, in which Onstwedder said that the oil, gas and coal reserves already known contain more CO2 than mankind can safely burn.

In 2007 Onstwedder worked on the “London Accord” project which is a co-operative research initiative that brings together the latest thinking of leading investment banks to provide a comprehensive overview of the state of the art in bringing the effects of climate change into rigorous financial decision making analysis.”  It is claimed that this project “has the potential to directly influence, over the next one to ten years, the financial investments made by managers of several trillion dollars and investment decisions by major corporations”, and that “The tools developed by the project can be used by NGOs, governments and academics, as well as the primary audience of ‘buy-side’ investment managers, creating a common understanding of the effectiveness of investments in initiatives to reduce man-made climate change.” 

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In the Reuters’ report of the interview with Gerard Wynn, dated 14 February 2008, which was published on the Planet Ark Website (www.planetark.com) Onstwedder said that he calculated the potential carbon emissions from proven oil, gas and coal reserves at around 700 billion tonnes, but if temperature increases are to be restricted in accordance with the conclusions of the IPCC’s 4th Assessment Reports (2007), then only about 500 billion tonnes of these fossil fuels can be emitted this century.  Onstwedder said that this prompts the question of why the oil industry was spending so much on oil exploration, at a cost of about US$50 billion a year.

In fact some people see the figure of 500 billion tonnes as too generous, Malte Meinshausen of the Potsdam Institute calculated a figure of 400 billion tonnes of carbon this century if the world is to have a 50:50 chance of staying within 2 degrees C.  The breakdown of the reserves is 152 billion tonnes of carbon in proven oil reserves, 96 billion tonnes in natural gas reserves and 455 billion tonnes in coal deposits, 703 billion tonnes in total. See U.N. The Human Development Report 2007/2008 (http://hdr.undp.org/en/reports/global/hdr2007-2008/)

 

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