While the world burns Govts continue planning fossil fuel use

Governments around the world are planning more than twice the fossil fuel production in 2030 than what we would be needed to keep warming under 1.5 degrees.

This is according to a report published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and an international team of researchers focusing on projected estimates of coal, oil, and gas.

“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.”

In its evaluation, titled the Production Gap Report, the researchers highlighted that while 17 out of the 20 countries investigated have pledged to achieve net-zero – normally by 2050 – the researchers suggest these aren’t going nearly far enough.

According to the report, none of the countries have committed to reducing coal, gas and oil production in line with a maximum of 1.5 degrees of warming.

The report points out that for Australia, governments are planning to increase their national production of coal and gas by 0.2 and 0.7% in 2030 compared to 2021 levels.

Pgr2023 country profile australia 1
Credit: SEI, Climate Analytics, E3G, IISD, and UNEP. (2023). The Production Gap.

This is reflective of most of the 20 high fossil fuel producing countries that the report investigated.

“The UNEP report is a damning indictment of the Albanese government, and its LNP predecessors,” said Professor John Quiggin, a University of Queensland economist.

“It shows that under current policies encouraging the extraction and export of coal and gas, we are contributing almost as much to the destruction of the global environment as Saudi Arabia, and more than any other country except China, Russia and the USA.”

While countries may pledge to get their own emissions to net-zero, continuing to produce coal and gas – even if it’s then exported is still contributing to a warming planet.

“Another danger is that governments’ existing net-zero pledges will not be fulfilled, with their credibility and implementation being increasingly called into question,” the report states.

“The lack of attention to a coordinated phase-in of zero-carbon and phase-out of fossil-fuel-based energy systems represents a major risk to a successful, non-disruptive, and just energy transition.”

The fossil fuel production gap. Credit: SEI, Climate Analytics, E3G, IISD, and UNEP. (2023). The Production Gap.

The researchers suggest that governments should aim for a near total phase-out of coal production and use by 2040, with oil and gas production set to at least three quarters by 2050 compared to 2020 levels.

Without adequate preparation to phase down of coal and other fossil fuels, it will be not only difficult to reach net zero, but also economically painful.

“Disturbingly, Australia has no national policy framework to restrict fossil fuel production, exploration or infrastructure development despite its status as one of the two biggest LNG and coal exporters in the world,” says Professor Samantha Hepburn, Director of the Centre for Energy and Natural Resource Law.

“There is no point in implementing tokenistic climate gestures if they are not supported by meaningful emission reduction strategies. Doing so fundamentally subverts our capacity to actually reach net zero and hopefully limit the potential for catastrophic global warming.”

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