Climate Change

Global plans on increasing fossil fuel production a bad sign for warming world: UNEP report

The world will produce 240% more coal than would be consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5°C. This is equal to 75% of current levels of global coal production

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Wednesday 20 October 2021


The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was a reminder that the threats of climate change are real. While the world needs to act now to limit long-term warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the window of opportunity seems to be rapidly closing.  

A new report by United Nations Environment Programme has now rung alarm bells: Governments are set to produce more fossil fuels than what the world requires to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

Most major oil and gas producing nations still plan to produce more than double the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than what would be consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5°C, the Production gap report 2021 released October 20, 2021 flagged.

These countries plan to produce around 110 per cent more fossil fuels in 2030, it added.

This is the third global assessment of the “production gap”— the difference between government plans for fossil fuel production and the levels consistent with globally agreed climate limits including the Paris climate agreement.

The report flagged that the gap between planned extraction of coal, oil and gas compared to safe limits was the same as it was two years ago.

It said the governments are projecting an increase in global oil and gas production, and only a modest decrease in coal production.

India and Russia are planning to increase their coal production, according to the report jointly produced by Stockholm Environment Institute, International Institute for Sustainable Development, think tank ODI and E3G, as well as UNEP.

More than 130 countries have now set or are considering a target of reducing emissions to net-zero by mid-century. “But this discrepancy points to the urgent need for net-zero pledges to be translated into action to bring down fossil fuel production,” said Måns Nilsson, executive director, Stockholm Environment Institute.

Global plans are ‘bad signs’ for the warming world

The production gap is proportionally the largest for coal. Countries have plans to produce 5.3 billion tonnes more coal in 2030 than would be consistent with the median 1.5°C-warming pathway. This is equal to 75 per cent of current levels of global coal production.

The world will produce 240 per cent more coal, 57 per cent more oil and 71 per cent more gas in 2030 than is consistent with 1.5C. Overall fossil fuel production is 45 per cent more than consistent with even the weaker goal of 2°C.

Global gas production is projected to increase the most in two decades (2020-2040), according to government plans. This continued, long-term global expansion in gas production is inconsistent with the Paris Agreement’s temperature limits.

The report included an analysis of 15 major fossil-fuel-producing countries, which accounted for 75 per cent of global fossil fuel production in 2020 as estimated by the International Energy Agency.

Of these, developed nations including the United States, Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia and China will see an increase in oil and gas production.

But UK and Indonesia will decrease their oil and gas output. India and Russia will increase their coal production.  

Over $300bn (£217bn) of new public finance has been invested in fossil fuel activities during the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. This is more than that provided for clean energy.

The G20 countries, however, reduced financing for overseas fossil fuel projects recently. China had in September declared an end to support for foreign coal plants.

“Denmark has taken the decision to cancel all future licensing rounds for oil and gas, and completely phase out our production by 2050,” said Dan Jørgensen, Minister for Climate, Energy and Utilities, Denmark.

“The devastating impacts of climate change are here for all to see. There is still time to limit long-term warming to 1.5°C, but this window of opportunity is rapidly closing,” said Inger Andersen, executive director, UNEP.

He added:

The governments must step up, take rapid and immediate steps to close the fossil fuel production gap and ensure a just and equitable transition 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. This is what climate ambition looks like.

Global fossil fuel production must start declining immediately and steeply to be consistent with limiting long-term warming to 1.5°C, the report said.

Global coal and oil also have to decline immediately to be consistent with a 2°C limit, while gas production must decline no later than 2030.

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