Planned Fossil Fuel Production Vastly Exceeds the World’s Climate Goals, ‘Throwing Humanity’s Future Into Question’

Among the top 20 nations that produce fossil fuels, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and the United States all anticipate large increases in domestic oil production, while Russia, India, and Indonesia all anticipate large increases in coal output.

According to a recent United Nations assessment, the top producing countries for fossil fuels still intend to raise their output of coal, gas, and oil much beyond what would be permitted under global climate targets.

The results show that there is a growing discrepancy between these countries’ promised reductions in emissions and their ongoing policies that support drilling and mining inside their borders.

According to a report released on Wednesday by the U.N. Environment Program, even though the vast majority of countries have adopted net-zero pledges to cut their climate emissions, their own plans and projections put them on track to extract more than twice as much fossil fuel by 2030 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and nearly 70 percent more than would be consistent with 2 degrees Celsius of warming.

According to scientists, planetary systems are likely to undergo more drastic and hazardous changes if global warming rises above 1.5 degrees.

According to the research, there is a “production gap” between expected output and climate goals, which indicates that the shift away from fossil fuels is still off course.

The results were dubbed “a startling indictment of runaway climate carelessness” by U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.

According to a statement released with the research, “governments’ plans to expand fossil fuel production are undermining the energy transition needed to achieve net-zero emissions, throwing humanity’s future into question.” Inger Andersen is the executive director of the U.N. Environment Program.

Four climate think tanks collaborated with the U.N. Environment Program to compile the 2023 Production Gap report, which examined plans and predictions released by 19 of the 20 countries that generate the most fossil fuels (data from South Africa was not available).

Using such data, the authors estimated global output and compared it to simulations of the supply of fossil fuels under several climatic scenarios done by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on climatic Change.

The production gap has not altered significantly since 2019, the year the groups released the report for the first time. The authors emphasized that governments have not yet started to consider how they will reduce the supply of fossil fuels, despite growing enthusiasm to adopt greener types of energy.

The International Monetary Fund reports that last year saw the highest amount of fossil fuel subsidies, despite the fact that several countries have set more aggressive climate commitments.

Governments were reacting in certain circumstances to the consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which caused commodity prices to spike and upended the world energy markets.

For instance, representatives of the Biden administration have urged oil and gas firms to boost production in order to offset lost Russian output, and they have persisted in endorsing additional terminals for the global export of natural gas. According to the government, this development is necessary to support market stability and energy security. In other instances, governments keep up output because they want to lower their reliance on imported energy or because they rely on the money they make from the sale of coal, oil, and gas.

“When you take all of this together, that’s what leads to the production gap,” stated Michael Lazarus, lead author of the report and director of the Stockholm Environment Institute’s U.S. center, to a group of journalists, even if many of these reasons might have merit on their own.

The biggest disparity still exists for coal, where governments are expected to create 460 percent more of the dirty fuel than the 1.5 degree target permits by 2030. Plans from the government run beyond budget by almost thirty percent for oil and more than eighty percent for gas.

The globe could be able to continue using minor amounts of fossil fuels for a longer period of time based on these predictions, which are based on modeling that assumes some degree of success for technology that would capture carbon dioxide emissions from smokestacks and remove it from the atmosphere. However, the authors cautioned that as none of these technologies have been implemented on a significant scale yet, taking a more conservative approach would imply phasing out the production of fossil fuels much sooner than their study indicates.

Out of the 20 countries the study looked at, 17 have made commitments to be carbon neutral, but none have matched their fossil fuel production policies to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees.

While Qatar and Russia anticipate the largest increases in gas output, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and the United States also anticipate major increases in domestic oil production. Russia, Indonesia, and India all have big plans to boost their coal use, which would offset China’s and the US’s huge decreases. Norway and the United Kingdom are the only producers of gas and oil that are preparing for major reductions in production.

According to the research, there is a risk that nations will overinvest in new supplies of fossil fuels, delaying the move away from coal, oil, and gas and possibly squandering billions of dollars on projects that may become needless as additional renewable energy sources become available.

The danger to nations is the main focus of the U.N. report, but this week’s study also looked at the risk to shareholders and investors who fund publicly traded oil corporations. A financial think tank focused on climate change, the Carbon Tracker Initiative, claimed in a recent analysis that oil companies are preparing to spend hundreds of billions on potentially risky investments because they are unable to predict the impending peak in demand and the ensuing decline.

“Organizations that anticipate significant oil demand during the ensuing two decades might be taken aback,” stated Mike Coffin, Carbon Tracker’s head of oil, gas, and mining.

The paper stated that instead of investing in new supplies, companies should concentrate on short-term oil and gas projects, diversify their operations, or return capital to shareholders, citing estimates from the International Energy Agency.

Similar conclusions are drawn from the Production Gap report, which also identifies a few encouraging indicators. According to the report, scenarios for matching domestic output with carbon-neutral targets have been started by Canada, China, Germany, and Indonesia. Recently, Colombia, an oil-producing nation, joined a coalition of nations determined to gradually phase down the production of oil and gas.

The paper cautions that poorer countries that rely heavily on production revenue may face additional difficulties if a shift away from fossil fuels is not carefully thought out. In order to solve this, the authors urged developed countries with lower levels of dependency, like the United States, to phase out manufacturing more quickly and to assist in financing the transitions in poorer nations.

One new concept is the “Just Energy Transition Partnership,” in which affluent countries pledge funds to assist developing nations in switching from fossil fuels to clean energy. To phase out coal power facilities, the United States and other nations have developed partnerships with South Africa, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

According to the paper, coordinating plans for fossil fuel output with other climate targets might help prevent the price shocks and supply-demand imbalances that have rocked the world economy since the coronavirus pandemic drove energy use down in 2020. That will necessitate a degree of international cooperation that hasn’t been seen yet.

Reportedly, there were disagreements during the recent negotiations over whether or not countries were willing to promise to gradually phase out the production of fossil fuels, despite the Paris Agreement’s infamous silence on the subject. A few weeks before countries assemble once more for the annual climate summit in Dubai, the authors of the new U.N. study stated that one of the report’s main recommendations is for negotiators to finally establish objectives to wind down production

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