Global fossil fuel production on track to bust Paris climate targets

The world’s major fossil fuel producers are set to bust global environmental goals with excessive coal, oil and gas extraction in the next decade, the United Nations and research groups said on Wednesday in the latest warning over climate crisis.

The report reviewed specific plans from 10 countries, including Canada, China and the United States, as well as trends for the rest of the world and estimated that global fossil fuel production by 2030 would be at levels between 50 to 120 per cent over Paris Agreement targets.

Under that 2015 global pact, nations committed to a long-term goal of limiting the average temperature increase to within 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

But by 2030, global planned production would lead to 39 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon dioxide emissions, 53 per cent higher than what is needed to reduce temperature rises to 2C and 21 Gt, or 120 per cent, more than is needed for 1.5 C, the report said.

“The world’s energy supply remains dominated by coal, oil and gas, driving emission levels that are inconsistent with climate goals,” said United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) executive director Inger Andersen.

As well as UNEP, the report was produced by the Stockholm Environment Institute, the International Institute for Sustainable Development, the Overseas Development Institute, and the CICERO Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research and Climate Analytics.

It created a new metric called “the fossil fuel production gap” highlighting the difference between rising production and the decline needed to restrict global warming.

Largest gap for coal

The gap was largest for coal, with countries planning to produce 150 per cent more in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 2 C, and 280 per cent more than would limit warming to 1.5C.

“The continued expansion of fossil fuel production — and the widening of the global production gap — is underpinned by a combination of ambitious national plans, government subsidies to producers, and other forms of public finance,” the report said.

An excavator operates at the coal terminal in Montoir-de-Bretagne near Saint-Nazaire, France July 12, 2019. The report found difference between rising production and the decline needed to restrict global warming was greatest for coal. (Stephane Mahe/Reuters)

The report notes that some countries, such as the Canada, the U.S., and Russia, appear to be using export markets to justify major increases in fossil fuel production. Others such as India and China, are scaling up production to limit or end imports.

“The net result could be significant over-investment, increasing the risk of stranded assets, workers, and communities, as well as locking in a higher emissions trajectory,” the report said.

The report precedes UNEP’s annual “emissions gap” report, due next week, which assesses whether countries’ emissions cut policies are enough.

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