Climate Change

UNEP production gap report: Net-zero targets by countries are empty pledges without plans

Governments are planning to produce more than double the production of fossil fuels than what the world requires to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius

By Samrat Sengupta
Published: Wednesday 20 October 2021

The climate crisis has become clearer than ever, but it has not been able to compel major emitters to improve action on the ground so far. Governments across the world are still planning to produce more than double the fossil fuels than what the world requires to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

This was flagged by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report released October 20, 2021.

The production gap to achieve the climate goal is the widest for coal: Production plans and projections by governments would lead to around 240 per cent more coal, 57 per cent more oil, and 71 per cent more gas in 2030 than global levels consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C.

The modelling analysis has considered carbon dioxides removal (CDR) technologies to be deployed widely and methane emissions and leakages to be arrested. These assumptions are yet to be proven workable in practice and any deviation from the assumptions will lead to further widening of the gap.

Global fossil fuel production under four pathways from 2019 to 2040, denominated in extraction-based CO2 emissions in units of billion tonnes of CO2 per year (GtCO2/yr). This reflects the amount of CO2 emissions expected to be released from the combustion of extracted coal, oil, and gas. Source: Production Gap Report 2021, UNEP

The most worrying factor is that almost all major coal, oil and gas producers are planning to increase their production till at least 2030 or beyond.

This has been fuelled by incremental capital flow towards fossil fuels in comparison to clean energy in the post novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) recovery phase. The Group of 20 countries has channelised $300 billion to fossil fuels since the beginning of the pandemic, and the sector is still enjoying significant fiscal incentives.

The world does not have any more time to alter its trajectory of energy use from fossil to clean energy, and a slight deviation in the coming decade will have a substantial burden of adversaries to our future generations, as we will be locked into long-term human-induced global warming beyond 2 degrees Celsius. 

The world leaders have planned to meet during the first half of November 2021, at the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Glasgow, United Kingdom, to negotiate on pathways to avert this crisis.

The report has underlined massive gaps between our pledges and actions, which need to be rectified with a real policy plan and finance.

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