Despite raised climate action ambitions, governments around the world are currently planning production of fossil fuels by the end of the decade that is “more than double” the output that would be in keeping with limiting global heating to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, according to new figures published by the United Nations’ Environment Programme (UNEP).
The global energy transition is gathering momentum – and the accompanying news-stream becoming an information deluge. Separate the green giants from the greenwash and the hard facts from the click-bait headlines with Recharge Agenda, our curation of the market-making events of the week, distilled down into one quick-read newsletter. Sign up here for free
UNEP’s latest Production Gap Report – an annual calculus measuring the difference between international governments’ predicted production of coal, oil and gas and levels “consistent” with Paris Agreement targets – found that two years after the first edition, the gap remains “largely unchanged”, with 110% more fossil fuels on track for 2030 than was sustainable if climate change was to be slowed en route to net zero by mid-century
“As countries set net-zero emission targets, and increase their climate ambitions under the Paris Agreement, they have not explicitly recognised or planned for the rapid reduction in fossil fuel production that these targets will require,” said the authors of the report, which was developed with an international group of research institutes.
“Rather, the world’s governments plan to produce more than twice the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C. The production gap has remained largely unchanged since our first analysis in 2019.”
Over the next 20 years, the report revealed, governments are “collectively projecting an increase in global oil and gas production, and only a modest decrease in coal production”, with plans currently on a trajectory that would see total fossil fuel output increasing out to “at least 2040, creating an ever-widening production gap”.
UNEP executive director Inger Andersen said: “The devastating impacts of climate change are here for all to see. There is still time to limit long-term warming to 1.5°C, but this window of opportunity is rapidly closing.
“At COP26 and beyond, the world’s governments must step up, taking rapid and immediate steps to close the fossil fuel production gap and ensure a just and equitable transition. This is what climate ambition looks like.”
Ploy Achakulwisut, a lead author on the report, said: “The research is clear: global coal, oil, and gas production must start declining immediately and steeply to be consistent with limiting long-term warming to 1.5°C. However, governments continue to plan for and support levels of fossil fuel production that are vastly in excess of what we can safely burn.”
According to UNEP, global governments’ production plans and projections would lead to some 240% more coal, 57% more oil, and 71% more gas in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5°C, with gas output foreseen rising “the most between 2020 and 2040”.
The 2021 report, which provides country profiles for 15 major petro-states, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, the UK, and the US, underlined that all these governments “continue to provide significant policy support” for fossil fuel production.
“Fossil-fuel-producing nations must recognize their role and responsibility in closing the production gap and steering us towards a safe climate future,” says Måns Nilsson, executive director at the Stockholm Environment Institute, which partnered with UNEP and International Institute for Sustainable Development , ODI and E3G on the report.
More than 80 researchers contributed to the analysis and review, spanning numerous universities, think-tanks and other research organisations.
The ‘stubborn incumbency’ of fossil fuels is leaving the world way off course to combat global heating, the International Energy Agency warned earlier this month as it issued a rallying call to governments ahead of the COP26 summit and called for spending on clean energy to triple, amplifying its statement in May that“immediate and massive” renewables deployment and a halt to new fossil fuel projects was needed if the world is to tread the “narrow but still achievable” path to a net zero energy system by 2050.