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Planned fossil fuel output shatters 1.5 degrees Celsius climate target: UN

Planned fossil fuel output shatters 1.5 degrees Celsius climate target: UN

Labourers eat lunch at a coal loading site in the village of Godhar in Jharia, a remote corner of eastern Jharkhand state, India, Oct 23, 2019. (File photo: AP/Aijaz Rahi)

PARIS: The world's nations are currently planning to produce more than double the amount of coal, oil and gas consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the United Nations said on Wednesday (Oct 20).

Ten days before a climate summit that is being billed as key to the viability of the Paris Agreement temperature goals, the UN Environment Programme said that government fossil fuel production plans this decade were "dangerously out of sync" with the emissions cuts needed.

The UN says emissions must go down nearly 50 per cent by 2030 and to net-zero by mid-century to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

But its Production Gap report found that total fossil fuel production would likely increase until at least 2040.

Development plans would produce 110 per cent more fossil fuels this decade than consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and 45 per cent more than for a world where temperatures increase 2 degrees Celsius.

"The research is clear: Global coal, oil and gas production must start declining immediately and steeply to be consistent with limiting long-term warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius," said Ploy Achakulwisut, a lead report author from the Stockholm Environment Institute.

"However, governments continue to plan for and support levels of fossil fuel production that are vastly in excess of what we can safely burn."

With 1.1 degrees Celsius of warming so far, Earth is being pummelled by ever more frequent drought, floods and storms supercharged by rising sea levels.

A flare burns natural gas at an oil well on Aug 26, 2021, in Watford City, North Dakota, US. (File photo: AP/Matthew Brown)


The 2015 Paris deal saw countries commit to limiting warming to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius through sweeping emissions cuts.

Under the deal, every signatory must submit renewed emissions cutting plans - known as nationally determined contributions, or NDCs - every five years.

In an assessment last month the UN said that, taken together, countries' latest NDCs - assuming they are fulfilled - put Earth on course to reach a "catastrophic" 2.7 degrees Celsius of warming by 2100.

The organisers of COP26, which starts in Glasgow on Oct 31, say they want the summit to keep the 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature goal within reach.

Michael Lazarus, a co-author of Wednesday's report, said the difference between countries' NDCs and production plans was "the major mismatch" in climate diplomacy right now.

"Even in the face of inevitable decarbonisation away from fossil fuels, some countries are speeding up their investments in activities to promote fossil fuel production, vowing to remain the last ones standing," he said.

Last week the International Energy Agency (IEA) said that the use of coal - the most polluting fossil fuel - had in fact increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In May it said that no new oil and gas production was compatible with 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Wednesday's report showed that governments planned to produce around 240 per cent more coal by 2030 than the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal allows.

They also plan for 57 per cent more oil and 71 per cent more natural gas, the report said.

In order to achieve carbon neutrality and avoid blowing past the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal, Lazarus said that "we don't need production in new fields at this point".

"Countries need to acknowledge the need for a just and equitable transition and report on how their production plans align with their climate plans," he said.

Source: AFP/dv


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