If EU countries don’t go fossil fuel-free within 9 years they stand no chance of meeting their commitments under the Paris climate deal.

That’s the warning cry from new research that highlights the true impact of natural gas emissions published today by the Tyndall Climate Research Centre.

The study researchers Professor Kevin Anderson and Doctor John Broderic call for “an urgent programme to phase out existing natural gas and other fossil fuel use across the EU”.

Campaigners at Brussels-based environmental NGO Friends of the Earth Europe, who commissioned the study, warn that if the EU continues with its current plans to support and subsidise new gas infrastructure for decades to come, it will not be able to keep maximum temperature rises below 2°C.

These findings follow last week’s revelations that the gas industry spent €104 million in 2016 and deployed well over 1000 lobbyists to influence EU commissioners in charge of climate and energy policy.

Climate scientists agree that to stand a chance of  keeping global warming under 2°C there is a finite amount of carbon pollution the world can emit – an amount referred to as the planet’s ‘carbon budget’. Today’s study shows that at current emissions’ levels the EU will have used up this ‘quota’ within nine years.

Colin Roche, campaigner on extractive industries at Friends of the Earth Europe said:

The EU continues to invest billions in fossil fuels, notably gas infrastructure, which will lock us in to dirty energy until long after we need to be fossil free. The oil and gas industry is succeeding in painting gas as green, but science shows there is absolutely no room for gas in the energy transition. Gas is not a bridge to the energy transition, it’s a bridge to nowhere.

Extracting and burning natural gas produces huge amounts both methane and carbon dioxide which contribute to global warming. The study also reveals that recent empirical studies of fossil fuel producing areas have found that governments are underestimating when reporting on official methane emissions levels, and that the actual levels are dangerously high.

Jagoda Munic, Director of Friends of the Earth Europe, said:

Europe’s infatuation with gas is totally incompatible with serious action on climate change. The oil and gas industry is going all out to paint gas as green and keep us hooked on fossil fuels, but the truth is there is absolutely no room for gas in the transition we need to a clean energy future. Europe needs to urgently get off all fossil fuels, realise the full potential of energy savings, and go for a 100% renewable system in the hands of people.”