UN Finds Dangerous Gap Between Fossil Fuel Production and Climate Goals

Fossil fuel "production gap"

A new study published by the UN Environmental Program (UNEP) reports that the world must cut its coal, oil, and gas production by more than half by 2030 to limit global temperature rise and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. The world's fossil fuel industry currently plans to extract double the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than the amount consistent with the agreement, but experts say that fossil fuel projects and production must begin declining immediately for there to be any hope of halting climate change.

Why This Matters

The world is reaching the end of the line when it comes to preventing a less than 1.5-degree Celsius temperature rise. Even after the COVID-19 emissions dip, countries have failed to sustain a green recovery. And despite pledges to the Paris Agreement and the damning IPCC report released earlier this year, many nations and global leaders have failed to step up their carbon commitments and continue to invest in fossil fuels. Unless the world makes an immediate shift to eliminate fossil fuels entirely, none of its 2050 goals will be met.

UN Environment Programme: A world of climate promises not yet delivered - #EmissionsGap, October 26, 2021.

Mind the Gap

The Production Gap Report investigated the titular "production gap," defined as the disparity between planned fossil fuel production and climate goals. It found that many countries are planning to continue producing oil, coal, and gas even past 2030. By 2030, oil and gas production in the US is projected to increase by 17% and 12% respectively, compared to 2019 levels. However, US coal production is expected to drop by 30%.

Ploy Achakulwisut, a lead author from the Stockholm Environment Institute, warned:

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 1.5C. However, governments continue to plan for and support levels of fossil fuel production that are vastly in excess of what we can safely burn.

Coal continues to be a point of contention heading into COP26, as China and Australia are urged by other nations to commit to halting production and decreasing their coal use. A report from the International Energy Agency recently found that coal use worldwide has increased since early 2020.

Stockholm Environment Institute: Production Gap Report 2021, October 19, 2021.

The Guardian: Why we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground | Keep it in the ground, March 16, 2015.