Governments' fossil fuel plans 'dangerously' inconsistent with 1.5°C goal

Countries plan 110% more fossil fuel production in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C, UN report finds.

Governments' fossil fuel plans 'dangerously' inconsistent with 1.5°C goal

Governments worldwide plan to produce more than double the quantity of fossil fuels by 2030 than what would be consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5°C despite more climate ambitions and net zero commitments, the 2021 Production Gap Report by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) along with research institutes finds Wednesday.

First launched in 2019, the report measures the gap between the planned production of coal, oil and gas in governments' plans and the global production levels consistent with meeting the Paris Agreement temperature limits.

Two years later, the 2021 report provided country profiles for 15 major producer countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and US, showing that most of these governments continue to provide significant policy support for fossil fuel production with the production gap largely unchanged.

The report was prepared by UNEP, the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and E3G with more than 40 researchers contributing to the analysis and with a review from several universities, think tanks and other research bodies.

Coal to see largest production growth in stark contrast with coal phase-out plans

The report finds that governments are collectively projecting an increase in global oil and gas production and only a modest decrease in coal production. It forecasts an increase in total fossil fuel production out to at least 2040 taking the governments' plans and projections collectively into consideration.

It further warns that such an increase will create an ever-widening production gap.

"Recent announcements by the world’s largest economies to end international financing of coal are a much-needed step in phasing out fossil fuels. But as this report starkly shows, there is still a long way to go to a clean energy future," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.

Governments plan to produce 110% more fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C and 45% more than consistent with 2°C, the report calculates.

In terms of fuel-based breakdown, 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 global warming to 1.5°C.

In response, Guterres called on the remaining public financiers as well as private finance, including commercial banks and asset managers to urgently switch their funding from coal to renewables to promote full decarbonization of the power sector and access to renewable energy for all.

Call for rapid and immediate steps to close fossil fuel production

Although international public finance for the production of fossil fuels from G20 countries and major multilateral development banks has significantly dropped in recent years, new funding provided to fossil fuel activities by countries since the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic accounts for more than that channeled to clean energy, reaching over $300 billion.

The report envisages that global gas production will increase the most between 2020 and 2040 based on governmental plans, which if realized would be inconsistent with the Paris Agreement's temperature limits.

Executive Director of UNEP, Inger Andersen, called on governments to take rapid and immediate steps to close fossil fuel production and ensure a just and equitable transition given that "the devastating impacts of climate change are here for all to see.”

She further cautioned that the window of opportunity is rapidly closing to limit long-term warming to 1.5°C.

Ploy Achakulwisut, a lead author of the report and SEI scientist, similarly stressed that global coal, oil and gas production needs to start declining immediately and steeply to be consistent with the long-term target of limiting the global temperature increase by 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," she said.