Governments ‘doubling down’ on fossil fuels despite climate change goals

Governments around the world are currently permitting around 110 per cent more fossil fuel production in 2030 than is consistent with Paris Agreement goals to limit global warming to 1.5°C, a study has found.

The major new report from the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and other climate bodies found that 2030 production levels are 69 per cent more than what would be consistent with a less ambitious 2°C warming scenario.

151 national governments have pledged to achieve net zero emissions. The latest forecasts suggest that global coal, oil and gas demand will peak this decade, even without new policies. Despite this, current government plans would lead to an increase in global coal production until 2030, and in global oil and gas production until at least 2050.

The Production Gap Report 2023 profiles 20 major fossil-fuel-producing countries including China, Germany, India, Saudi Arabia and the UK.

It finds there are “uncertainties” around the viability of carbon capture and storage methods used to abate carbon emissions. It therefore recommends countries aim for a near total phase-out of coal by 2040, and a reduction in oil and gas production by three-quarters by 2050 from 2020 levels.

While 17 of the 20 countries featured in the report have pledged to achieve net zero emissions, none have committed to reducing 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 to help support the transition processes in countries with limited resources, the researcher said.

“Governments are literally doubling down on fossil fuel production; that spells double trouble for people and planet,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

“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.”

Just this week, the UK government announced a new oil and gas licensing scheme that would see new projects being approved annually in a move that angered climate campaigners.

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

“Governments’ plans to expand fossil fuel production are undermining the energy transition needed to achieve net zero emissions, throwing humanity’s future into question,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of UNEP. “Powering economies with clean and efficient energy is the only way to end energy poverty and bring down emissions at the same time.”

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