Fossil fuels are expected to be a major source of primary energy consumption in 2040 in all scenarios projected by the International Energy Agency. Meeting the challenge of taking action on climate change concerns while providing adequate, affordable supplies of reliable energy will require financial investments, skilled people, technical innovation and responsible stewardship from policy makers, energy producers and consumers.
Increasing the use of natural gas in the energy mix is the fastest and most economical path to significantly reducing U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2). According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2017 totaled 5,140 million metric tonsi (MMmt), down from 5,170 MMmt in 2016. This decrease is consistent with a decade-long trend. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), natural gas used for power generation produces half as much carbon dioxide, less than a third as much nitrogen oxides, and 1 percent as much sulfur oxides at the power plant compared to the average air emissions from coal-fired generation. In addition to reduced air emissions, natural gas has other environmental benefits that make it a smart fuel choice. Natural gas-fired power plants use about 60 percent less water than coal plants and 75 percent less water than nuclear power plants for the same electricity output.
Addressing climate change concerns is a significant topic of discussion both globally and at ConocoPhillips. Governments — federal, state/provincial and local — will likely continue to act on the issue of global climate change over the months and years ahead. We believe that we must play a constructive role in public policy discussions to ensure that approaches to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to address the impacts of climate change are practical, equitable and cost effective. Our success in a low carbon economy relies on this collaboration.
We recognize that human activity, including the burning of fossil fuels, is contributing to increased concentrations of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere that can lead to adverse changes in global climate. And we are committed to reducing our GHG emissions intensity between 5 and 15 percent by 2030, from a 2017 baseline, by continuing to manage GHG emissions in our operations and integrating climate-related activities and goals into our business planning. Since 2009, we have reduced GHG emissions by 6.9 million tonnes compared to business as usual, keeping our absolute emissions nearly flat.
We recently worked with members of IPIECA, the global oil and gas industry association for environmental and social issues, to publish the ‘Exploring Low- Emissions Pathways’ report. Our Climate Change Director Malcolm Fawcett played an instrumental role in the creation of the report, which is based on expert feedback from academia, business, governments, and international and non-governmental organizations. The publication provides perspective on the elements and enablers of pathways toward a low-emissions future. The paper draws on three common elements found in the construction of 2-degree Celsius scenarios: improving efficiency and saving energy; reducing emissions from power generation; and deploying alternative low-emission options in end-use sectors. It also describes the challenges to achieve the aims of the Paris Agreement and concludes that with collaboration, effective policy, market-oriented solutions, the development of carbon capture and storage and the availability of financing, they can be met. We believe that it is possible to address climate-related risks while also meeting growing global energy demand and supporting economic development.
We are a Founding Member of the Climate Leadership Council (CLC), an international policy institute founded in collaboration with business and environmental interests to develop a carbon dividend plan. Participation in the CLC provides another opportunity for ongoing dialogue about carbon pricing and framing the issues in alignment with our principles. We have clear policy principles and a long history of engaging with external stakeholders in support of pragmatic policy.
We are proud to announce our involvement in The Environmental Partnership, a new coalition of natural gas and oil companies focused on accelerating environmental performance improvements from operations across the U.S.