Fossil fuel production planned by national governments “vastly exceeds” the limit needed to keep global temperatures at safe levels, the United Nations said today.
Despite greater climate ambitions and net-zero commitments, oil and gas production is expected to rise sharply and planned cuts to coal extraction are just modest.
A report for the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) says countries have predicted they will produce more than double the fossil fuels (110%) in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5C.
The 2021 Production Gap Report looks at the discrepancy between governments’ planned production of oil, gas and coal, and the global fossil fuel production levels needed to limit warming to 1.5C and 2C.
Since the first report in 2019, the gap is largely unchanged. Total fossil fuel production is expected to increase to at least 2040, creating an ever-widening production gap, it said.
Today’s report, produced by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), said governments’ production plans and projections would lead to about 240% more coal, 57% more oil, and 71% more gas in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5°C.
Ploy Achakulwisut, a lead author on the report and scientist at SEI, 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.”
The authors found that global gas production, based on government plans, is projected to increase most between 2020 and 2040. This continued, long-term global expansion in gas production is inconsistent with the temperature limits in the Paris climate agreement, they said
The report’s detailed analysis of the 15 biggest fossil fuel producing nations showed that the US, Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia and China all expected increased oil and gas extraction. India and Russia projected increases in coal extraction. The UK and Indonesia expected oil and gas production would fall.
Måns Nilsson, executive director at SEI, said:
“Fossil-fuel-producing nations must recognize their role and responsibility in closing the production gap and steering us towards a safe climate future,
“As countries increasingly commit to net-zero emissions by mid-century, they also need to recognize the rapid reduction in fossil fuel production that their climate targets will require.”
“Governments must step up”
The report comes just over a week before the opening of the Cop26 international climate conference in Glasgow.
Countries will be asked to pledge carbon-cutting measures to limit temperature to the target of 1.5C. But according to today’s report, most governments continue to provide significant policy support for fossil fuel production.
Inger Andersen, executive director of UNEP, 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.”
The researchers also found that countries had directed over US$ 300 billion in new funds towards fossil fuel activities since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic — more than they had to clean energy.
Lucile Dufour, senior policy advisor at IISD, said:
“Early efforts from development finance institutions to cut international support for fossil fuel production are encouraging, but these changes need to be followed by concrete and ambitious fossil fuel exclusion policies to limit global warming to 1.5C.”
UK net zero policies
Yesterday, the UK government released its strategy to achieve net zero carbon.
- Subsidies on replacing gas boilers with heat pumps (more details)
- Ending the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030
- Electricity generation will be zero carbon by 2035 with a new large nuclear plant by 2024
- Target of 40gw of offshore wind power by 2030 and more onshore wind and solar supplies
- Aim to deliver 5gw of hydrogen production capacity by 2030
- Halving emissions from oil and gas
- Ambition for the UK to become a world leader in zero emission flight
- Commitment of 30,000 ha of new woodland planting a year
The strategy did not include:
- Ambitious plans for home insulation
- Commitments to end new licences for oil and gas exploration or phase out production
- Recommendations about meat and dairy consumption