Production Gap Report Urges Reducing Fossil Fuel Supply and Use to Achieve Climate Goals, SDGs
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The report warns there has been “minimal policy attention” to curbing fossil fuel production, despite the fact that the global production gap is “even larger than the already-significant global emissions gap”.

Current government plans will result in 39 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, or 53% more fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 2°C.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and partners have released a report that finds that countries’ planned production of coal, oil and gas far exceeds levels needed to achieve the Paris Agreement on climate change. The report calls for increasing focus on reducing fossil fuel production to meet global climate goals and additional sustainable development benefits such as reduced habitat degradation, decreased air and water pollution and improved health outcomes.

The report titled, ‘The Production Gap: The Discrepancy Between Countries’ Planned Fossil Fuel Production and Global Production Levels Consistent with Limiting Warming to 1.5°C or 2°C,’ is the first assessment of the gap between the Paris Agreement on climate change targets and countries’ planned production of coal, oil and gas. The report finds that current government plans will result in 39 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide  (CO2) emissions, or 53% more fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 2°C, and 120% more than would be consistent with a 1.5°C pathway. The production gap is the largest for coal, with countries planning to produce 5.2 billion tonnes, or 150% more coal, than would be consistent with a 2°C pathway  and 280% more than would be consistent with a 1.5°C pathway.

The report warns that there has been “minimal policy attention” to curbing fossil fuel production, despite the fact that the global production gap is “even larger than the already-significant global emissions gap.” In addition to exceeding the 1.5°C and 2°C pathways, countries’ planned fossil fuel production also surpasses production levels consistent with implementing countries Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The report cautions that, although many countries have stated their intent to decrease their emissions, they “are signaling the opposite when it comes to fossil fuel production,” with plans and projections for expansion further threatening countries’ ability to meet global climate goals. Within this context, the report underscores the importance of promoting policy coherence to align energy policies and climate goals, sending a “more coherent and consistent signal that a government intends to wind down dependence on both fossil fuel supply and use.”

Although many countries have stated their intent to decrease their emissions, they are signaling the opposite when it comes to fossil fuel production.

The report examines production plans and outlooks in Australia, Canada, China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Norway, the Russian Federation, the UK and the US. In nearly each of these countries, the production of coal, oil and gas in national plans and outlooks exceeds the levels projected in the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) New Policies Scenario, which is approximately consistent with levels needed to achieve global implementation of the NDCs.

The report highlights several governments’ adoption of policies to restrict fossil fuel production, while most countries have focused on the demand side, with policies to increase renewable energy, energy efficiency and other low-carbon technologies. A few countries have also implemented supply-side measures to limit fossil fuel production. For example, India and Nigeria include supply-side measures in their NDCs. The Governments of Belize, Costa Rica, France, Denmark and New Zealand have enacted partial or total bans on oil and gas extraction. Germany and Spain are phasing out coal extraction.

The report recommends that governments employ a range of policy options to help countries improve alignment of coal, oil and gas production with climate goals. Recommendations include: economic instruments like subsidy reforms; regulatory approaches such as banning new extraction permits, and measures to enhance information and transparency, including national reporting of fossil fuel production; and government provision of goods and services, including just transition plans like job training programmes and social protection and insurance for workers. In addition, the report emphasizes the role of the UN climate processes and other international initiatives and cooperation in catalyzing action and winding down fossil fuel production.

The report “follows in the footsteps” of the UNEP Emissions Gap Report, which compares countries’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions with emissions levels needed to meet climate goals. UNEP produced the report in collaboration with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Climate Analytics, and the Center for International Climate Research (CICERO). [Publication: The Production Gap Report 2019] [Report Webpage] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Emissions Gap Report 2018] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Emissions Gap Report 2019 Chapter Previewing Opportunities for G20 Countries to Increase Climate Ambition] [SDG Knowledge Hub Guest Article on Production Gap Report]

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