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Fossil fuel output to exceed Paris climate pledges

Gero Rueter an
November 20, 2019

Production of coal, oil and gas is set to outstrip carbon budgets required to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius.

Greenpeace Protest vor Kraftwerk Niederaußem
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/R. Weihrauch

There's a huge gulf between ambition and reality.

The world is on track to produce far more fossil fuels than permissible to meet its target of limiting global warming to at most 2 degrees Celsisus, and ideally 1.5 degrees C.

That's the conclusion of the Production Gap Report, created from leading research institutions together with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

"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," said Michael Lazarus, lead author of the report from the Stockholm Environment Institute. The report proposes solutions to close this gap, he added.

Infografik CO2 Emissionen aus Kohle Öl und Gas EN

Inge Anderson, Executive Director of UNEP, called for a "sharpened and long overdue" focus on fossil fuels. "The world's energy supply remains dominated by coal, oil and gas, driving emission levels that are inconsistent with climate goals."

Planned production of fossil fuels by 2030 is around 50 percent too high to limit global warming to 2 degrees C, the report found, and is more than double that needed to limit warming to 1.5 degrees C.

Keep it in the ground

By looking closely at individual energy sources, the scientists showed fossil fuels are not on the necessary reduction paths to meet emissions pledges — which themselves are not enough to reach the Paris goals.

Coal mining, for instance, would need to halve worldwide by 2030 to hit 2 degrees C, and drop by two-thirds to hit 1.5, the report found. National projections suggest countries are planning on 17% more coal in 2030 than is consistent to meet their pledges.

Brown coal mine, with wind turbines in the distance
Despite progress building renewable energy, Germany has struggled to kick its coal addictionImage: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Ziese
A bottle floats in a flooded Venice street
Climate change is already making extreme weather stronger, such as last week's floods in Venice, Italy.Image: Getty Images/AFP/P. Monteforte

Oil and gas

Production from oil and gas fields must also be significantly reduced to meet climate targets, the report says. In order to limit global warming to two degrees C, oil production would have to fall slightly by 2030 compared with today. To meet a 1.5 scenario, it would need to be reduced by a third.

In the case of natural gas, experts call for a significant slowdown in growth to meet climate targets. To hit the 1.5-degree C goal, production would have to drop by about a quarter by 2030 compared with today.

"Despite more than two decades of climate policy making, fossil fuel production levels are higher than ever," said SEI'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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