Governments plan more fossil fuel production despite climate pledges
Despite frequent and devastating heat waves, droughts, floods and fire, major fossil fuel-producing countries still plan to extract more than double the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than is consistent with the Paris climate accord's goal for limiting global temperature rise, according to a United Nations-backed study released Wednesday.
Coal production needs to ramp sharply down to address climate change, but government plans and projections would lead to increases in global production until 2030, and in global oil and gas production until at least 2050, the Production Gap Report states. This conflicts with government commitments under the climate accord, which seeks to keep global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).
The report examines the disparity between climate goals and fossil fuel extraction plans, a gap that has remained largely unchanged since it was first quantified in 2019.
"Governments' plans to expand fossil fuel production are undermining the energy transition needed to achieve net-zero emissions, creating economic risks and throwing humanity's future into question," Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, said in a statement.
As world leaders convene for another round of United Nations climate talks at the end of the month in Dubai, seeking to curb greenhouse gases, Andersen said nations must "unite behind a managed and equitable phase-out of coal, oil and gas — to ease the turbulence ahead and benefit every person on this planet."
The report is produced by the Stockholm Environment Institute, Climate Analytics, E3G, International Institute for Sustainable Development, and UNEP. They say countries should aim for a near-total phase-out of coal production and use by 2040 and a combined reduction in oil and gas production and use by three-quarters by 2050 from 2020 levels, at a minimum.
But instead, the analysis found that in aggregate, governments plan to produce about 110% more fossil fuels in 2030 than what's needed to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), and 69% more than would be consistent with the less protective goal of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). These global discrepancies increase even more toward 2050.
Soon after the release of the 2021 Production Gap Report, U.N. climate talks were held in Glasgow, Scotland, and governments agreed to accelerate the transition away from "unabated" coal power, meaning coal-fed power plants where carbon dioxide comes out of the smokestack. A transition away from that kind of electricity is underway in many places, including Germany, Canada, South Africa and the United States. But major oil and gas producers continue to expand, the report states.
More than 80 researchers from over 30 countries contributed, examining 20 major fossil fuel-producing countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Germany, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States. They found that while most have launched initiatives to cut emissions, none have committed to reducing coal, oil and gas production enough to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).
Combined, these countries account for 82% of production, and 73% of consumption, of the world's fossil fuels, the report states.
Ploy Achakulwisut, a lead author and SEI scientist, said many governments are promoting natural gas — which she referred to as fossil gas — as an essential transition fuel, but with no apparent plans to transition away later.
The organizations are calling for governments to reduce fossil fuel production in line with climate goals, and to be more transparent. They want wealthier countries to aim for more ambitious reductions and support the transition processes in poorer countries.