Steam rises from the Miller coal Power Plant in Adamsville, Alabama on April 11, 2021.
UN Report: World fossil fuel usage headed in the wrong direction
03:44 - Source: CNN
New York CNN Business  — 

Ahead of a critical global climate conference in November, a UN report released Wednesday shows that many of the world’s largest fossil fuel producers are still planning to ramp up production in the coming years, and will be burning far more fossil fuels in 2030 than what is consistent with global climate pledges.

The UN Environment Programme analysis used the plans of 15 major economies to estimate the world will produce roughly 110% more coal, oil, and gas in 2030 than what would be necessary to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and 45% more than what would be consistent with 2 degrees.

Scientists have said limiting warming to those thresholds is critical to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis.

Researchers call this disconnect between government plans and international climate commitments the “production gap,” which they conclude remains “largely unchanged” compared to previous assessments since the annual report first launched in 2019.

The latest analysis found that the production gap is widest for coal, of which governments plan to produce roughly 240% more in 2030. They are also planning to produce 57% more oil and 71% more natural gas than what is in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Ploy Achakulwisut, lead author of the report and scientist with the Stockholm Environment Institute, said while the range is sobering, governments still have the power to reverse course and close the gap.

“It’s state-owned fossil fuel companies that control 50 to 55% of global coal, oil and gas production, but even when they don’t currently control production, government policies and subsidies enables production by private interests,” Achakulwisut told CNN. “It’s governments who can implement systemic economy-wide policies and actions, with the public interest in mind.”

“The main message is that governments have a primary role to play in closing the production gap,” she added.

Achakulwisut and colleagues analyzed the production plans and projections of Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Norway, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Although the world’s largest coal producers, China and the US, are ramping down their production of fossil fuels, the shift would be counteracted by projected increases in coal production in India, Russia, and Australia, the report said.