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UN fossil fuel production report

The world’s governments plan to produce 120% more fossil fuels by 2030 than can be burned under 1.5°C warming. That is the key finding of The Production Gap report published by leading research organisations* and the UN, which assesses the gap between Paris Agreement goals and countries’ planned production of coal, oil and gas.

The world is on track to produce far more coal, oil and gas than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C or 2°C, creating a ‘production gap’ that makes climate goals much harder to reach, according to report, which complements the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
Emissions Gap report, which shows that country pledges fall short of the emission reductions needed to meet global temperature limits.

‘Over the past decade, the climate conversation has shifted. There’s greater recognition of the role that the unfettered expansion of fossil fuel production plays in undermining climate progress,’ says Michael Lazarus, a lead author on the report and the Director of Stockholm Environment Institute’s US Center. ‘This report shows, for the first time, just how big the disconnect is between Paris temperature goals and countries’ plans and policies for coal, oil, and gas production. It also shares solutions, suggesting ways to help close this gap through domestic policies and international cooperation.'

The report’s main findings include:

  • The world is on track to produce about 50% more fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 2°C and 120% more than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C.
  • This production gap is largest for coal. Some countries plan to produce 150% more coal (5.2bn tonnes) in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 2°C, and 280% (6.4bn tonnes) more than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C.
  • Oil and gas are also on track to exceed carbon budgets, with continued investment and infrastructure locking in use of these fuels, until countries are producing 43% (36mn b/d) more oil and 47% (1,800bn cm/d) more gas by 2040 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 2°C.
  • National projections suggest that countries are planning on 17% more coal, 10% more oil and 5% more gas production in 2030 than consistent with nationally determined contributions (NDC) implementation (which itself is not enough to limit warming to 1.5°C or 2°C).

Countries have numerous options for closing the production gap, including limiting exploration and extraction, removing subsidies, and aligning future production plans with climate goals. The report details these options, as well as those available through international cooperation under the Paris Agreement.

The authors also emphasize the importance of a ‘just transition’ away from fossil fuels.

‘There is a pressing need to ensure that those affected by social and economic change are not left behind,’ says report author and SEI Research Fellow Cleo Verkuijl. ‘At the same time, transition planning can build consensus for more ambitious climate policy.’

Production Gap report comes as more than 60 countries have already committed to updating their NDCs, which set out their new emission reduction plans and climate pledges under the Paris Agreement, by 2020.

‘Countries can use this opportunity to integrate strategies to manage fossil fuel production into their NDCs – which in turn will help them reach emission reduction goals,’ says Niklas Hagelberg, UNEP’s climate change coordinator.

*Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), Overseas Development Institute (ODI), CICERO Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research and Climate Analytics.

News Item details

Journal title: Petroleum Review

Subjects: Forecasting - Oil and gas - Coal - Climate change - Decarbonisation -

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