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‘Phasing down or phasing up?’

Governments plan to produce double the fossil fuels in 2030 than the 1.5°C warming limit allows
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Chimneys and cooling towers from a coal-fired power station releasing smoke and steam into the atmosphere. The power plant is also releasing CO2 which contributes to global warming and climate change.

A major new report published yesterday (08 November) reveals that governments plan to produce around 110% more fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C, and 69% more than would be consistent with 2°C.  
This comes despite pledges from 151 national governments to achieve net-zero emissions and the latest forecasts which suggest global coal, oil and gas demand will peak this decade, even without new policies.

When combined, government plans would lead to an increase in global coal production until 2030, and in global oil and gas production until at least 2050, creating an ever-widening fossil fuel production gap over time.

Production Gap Report findings

The report states that, given risks and uncertainties of carbon capture and storage and carbon dioxide removal, countries should aim for a near total phase-out of coal production and use by 2040, and a combined reduction in oil and gas production and use by three-quarters by 2050 from 2020 levels, at a minimum.

While 17 of the 20 countries featured in the report have pledged to achieve net-zero emissions — and many have launched initiatives to cut emissions from fossil fuel production activities — none have committed to reduce coal, oil and gas production in line with limiting warming to 1.5°C.

Governments with greater capacity to transition away from fossil fuels should aim for more ambitious reductions and help support the transition processes in countries with limited resources.

‘Governments are literally doubling down on fossil fuel production; that spells double trouble for people and planet. We cannot address climate catastrophe without tackling its root cause: fossil fuel dependence. COP28 must send a clear signal that the fossil fuel age is out of gas — that its end is inevitable. We need credible commitments to ramp up renewables, phase out fossil fuels, and boost energy efficiency, while ensuring a just, equitable transition.

UN secretary-general

Tackling poverty and emissions

The 2023 Production Gap Report: ‘Phasing down or phasing up? Top fossil fuel producers plan even more extraction despite climate promises’ is produced by Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), Climate Analytics, E3G, International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Modelled after the UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report series — and conceived as a complementary analysis — the report assesses governments’ planned and projected production of coal, oil and gas against global levels consistent with the Paris Agreement’s temperature goal. 

‘Governments’ plans to expand fossil fuel production are undermining the energy transition needed to achieve net-zero emissions, throwing humanity’s future into question. Powering economies with clean and efficient energy is the only way to end energy poverty and bring down emissions at the same time.

‘Starting at COP28, nations must unite behind a managed and equitable phase-out of coal, oil and gas — to ease the turbulence ahead and benefit every person on this planet.’

Executive director of UNEP

Climate change is here

July 2023 was the hottest month ever recorded, and most likely the hottest for the past 120,000 years, according to scientists.

Across the globe, deadly heat waves, droughts, wildfires, storms, and floods are costing lives and livelihoods, making clear that human-induced climate change is here.

Global carbon dioxide emissions — almost 90% of which come from fossil fuels — rose to record highs in 2021–2022.

‘We find that many governments are promoting fossil gas as an essential ‘transition’ fuel but with no apparent plans to transition away from it later. But science says we must start reducing global coal, oil, and gas production and use now — along with scaling up clean energy, reducing methane emissions from all sources, and other climate actions — to keep the 1.5°C goal alive.’

A lead author on the report and SEI scientist

Support for fossil fuels

The 2023 Production Gap Report provides newly expanded country profiles for 20 major fossil fuel-producing countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Germany, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Qatar, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America.

These profiles show that most of these governments continue to provide significant policy and financial support for fossil fuel production.  

‘COP28 could be the pivotal moment where governments finally commit to the phase-out of all fossil fuels and acknowledge the role producers have to play in facilitating a managed and equitable transition. Governments with the greatest capacities to transition away from fossil fuel production bear the greatest responsibility to do so while providing finance and support to help other countries do the same.’

A lead author on the report and SEI US Centre director

Averting a human rights catastrophe

Despite being the root cause of the climate crisis, fossil fuels have remained largely absent from international climate negotiations until recent years.

At COP26 in late 2021, governments committed to accelerate efforts towards ‘the phase down of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies’, though they did not agree to address the production of all fossil fuels. 

‘Going into the COP28 climate summit, we see leading fossil fuel producing countries in thrall to the profit seeking of major fossil fuel companies rather than meeting their human rights obligations and commitments under the Paris Agreement. This must be remedied at COP28 by parties agreeing to urgently and equitably phase out all fossil fuels.

‘As the report indicates, increased production and use of fossil fuels is not compatible with a safe and liveable future. Climate change impacts the rights to life, health, food, water, culture and to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment of present and future generations. Marginalised communities and Indigenous peoples are bearing the brunt of climate harm today, and this will only worsen with an increase in greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of more fossil fuels.

‘2023 is projected to be easily the hottest year on record, yet governments are still irresponsibly fuelling a rapidly worsening climate crisis. An increase in global coal production until 2030, and global oil and gas production until at least 2050 sets us on a course towards further climate chaos.

‘This must change to avert a human rights catastrophe. States must take urgent steps now to phase out all fossil fuel production including by ending subsidies, halt all new expansion projects, and accelerate a just and equitable transition to renewable energy. States that bear the greatest responsibility for historical emissions as well as high income fossil fuel producing states must move further and faster, and provide adequate assistance to states that need it to help decarbonise their economies.’

Amnesty International’s climate justice researcher

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