Global fossil fuel extraction plans are double what we can safely burn

The Buckskin coal mine near Gillette, Wyoming TANNEN MAURY/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
An analysis by the United Nations found that countries around the globe plan to extract more fossil fuels than the Paris Agreement allows. This is in response to the Paris Agreement's toughest climate change goal.

According to Ploy Achakulwisut, the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), who produced the Production Gap report, governments continue to plan and support fossil fuel production levels that are far beyond what we can safely burn.

The production gap refers to the difference between the amount of oil, coal and gas that government plans to extract in the coming years and the amount that must remain in the ground in order to achieve the Paris Agreements goals of limiting global warming to 1.5C or below 2C.


2030 will see the production of around 24% more coal, 60% more oil, and 70% more gas than what is permitted by the 1.5C goal. In 2030, 110% more fossil fuels than the 1.5C goal allows will be produced, compared to the figure of 45 percent for the 2C goal.

According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) update, the gap is still a significant one since the original version was published in 2019.

The attitudes of governments towards fossil fuel production have not been significantly affected by the covid-19 pandemic. The report shows that governments have spent nearly $300 billion on fossil fuel projects since January 2020. This is more than they have for clean energy.

At SEI, Michael Lazarus says that we are not seeing the sustained recovery we need.

The report outlines the government projections and plans for 15 countries, which include the US, Brazil, China, and the UK. Together, they account for 77% of global fossil fuel production. The authors point out that the UK government has made it clear that it will extract all oil and natural gas economically feasible. In March, however, they decided to keep issuing new oil-and gas licenses.

Most climate plans of governments have been focused on reducing carbon emissions, but not limiting the amount of fossil fuel produced. There is an international movement that supports the creation of a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. Costa Rica and Denmark have already banned future oil-and-gas production. They hope to create an alliance of other countries that follows their example.

According to Mns. Nilsson, SEI, countries must recognize the need for rapid reductions in fossil fuel production as they move towards net-zero emissions by midcentury.

Inger Andersen is the executive director of UNEP. He said that governments should step up to the COP26 climate summit in Glagsow, and close the gap in fossil fuel production.

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