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Nations across the globe have made pledges under the Paris Agreement to limit fossil fuel emissions to a level consistent with keeping global warming between 1.5°C and 2°C. The recently released UN Production Gap Report found those pledges are not being met with governments around the world planning on producing 120% more fossil fuels by 2030 than can be used to keep warming under 1.5°C.

The report was produced by the UN along with leading research organizations and is the first assessment of the gap between Paris Agreement goals and the planned international production of coal, oil and gas and complements, and The UN Environment Program (UNEP) Emissions Gap Report shows country pledges are failing to meet the emission reductions recommended to prevent global temperature limits.

While inadequate pledges are a worrying starting point, finding that planned fossil fuel production isn’t on pace to meet those modest goals is even more concerning because it indicates a locked-in infrastructure around coal, oil and gas supply that makes emission reductions even more difficult to realize.

“Over the past decade, the climate conversation has shifted. There’s greater recognition of the role that the unfettered expansion of fossil fuel production plays in undermining climate progress,” said Michael Lazarus, a lead author on the report and the director of Stockholm Environment Institute’s US Center. “This report shows, for the first time, just how big the disconnect is between Paris temperature goals and countries’ plans and policies for coal, oil, and gas production. It also shares solutions, suggesting ways to help close this gap through domestic policies and international cooperation.”

Research groups involved in the UN report include the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), International Institute for Sustainable Development, Overseas Development Institute, CICERO Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research, Climate Analytics, and UNEP with more than 50 researchers contributing to the analysis and review.

Key findings from the report include:

  • The world is on track to produce about 50% more fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 2°C and 120% more than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C.
  • The production gap is largest for coal. Countries plan to produce 150% more coal in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 2°C, and 280% more than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C.
  • Oil and gas are also on track to exceed carbon budgets, with continued investment and infrastructure locking in the use of these fuels Countries are planning to produce between 40% and 50% more oil and gas by 2040 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 2°C.
  • National projections suggest that countries are planning on 17% more coal, 10% more oil and 5% more gas production in 2030 than is consistent with NDC implementation (which itself is not enough to limit warming to 1.5°C or 2°C).

Carbon emissions have remained at the levels projected a decade ago wrote UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen in the report noting this fact “calls for a sharpened, and long overdue, focus on fossil fuels” as the global energy supply is still dominated by coal, oil and gas. This fossil fuel production gap is a new metric that illustrates the chasm between planned production and the reductions in that production necessary to limit global warming.

The report outlined options that nations across the globe can adopt to begin to close the production gap such as limiting exploration and extraction, removing subsidies, and aligning future production plans with climate goals. More than 60 nations have committed to updating their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and the report offers these countries an opportunity to integrate strategies that manage fossil fuel production into their NDCs said Niklas Hagelberg, UNEP’s climate change coordinator.

“Despite more than two decades of climate policy making, fossil fuel production levels are higher than ever,” said Stockholm Environment Institute’s Executive Director, Måns Nilsson. “This report shows that governments’ continued support for coal, oil and gas extraction is a big part of the problem. We’re in a deep hole – and we need to stop digging.”

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