New UNEP Report Sounds Alarm on Fossil Fuel Production Doubling Down

In a stark departure from their promises to curtail fossil fuel production, governments worldwide are on track to effectively double their output by 2030, warns a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), unveiled on Wednesday.

The 2023 Production Gap report paints a sobering picture of a world recklessly disregarding climate concerns, as emphasized by UN Secretary-General António Guterres in his accompanying message.

This surge in fossil fuel extraction persists despite the commitments of 151 national governments to achieve net-zero emissions. Even without fresh policies, current projections indicate that global demand for coal, oil, and gas is poised to peak in the coming decade.

The collective strategies of governments are set to bolster coal production globally until 2030, with oil and gas production continuing to grow at least until 2050.

In essence, governments are intensifying their focus on fossil fuel production, spelling a dire double jeopardy for both humanity and the planet, according to the UN chief.

Startling Findings

The research, conducted by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), Climate Analytics, E3G, International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), and the UNEP, implores nations to aspire to almost entirely phase out coal production and utilization by 2040.

The report further calls for a minimum 75 percent reduction in oil and gas production compared to 2020 levels by 2050. This is imperative due to the substantial risks and uncertainties associated with carbon capture and storage, as well as carbon dioxide removal.

Although 17 out of the 20 countries featured in the report have committed to achieving net-zero emissions and initiated initiatives to reduce emissions from fossil fuel production activities, none have made pledges to curtail coal, oil, and gas production in alignment with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Despite the consensus reached at the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow two years ago to hasten the “phasedown of unabated coal power,” the production and utilization of fossil fuels have reached unprecedented levels.

Renewable Energy as a Solution

Mr. Guterres urges countries to phase out coal production by 2030 in OECD countries and by 2040 elsewhere. He also calls upon the G20 to lead the way in terminating the issuance of licenses and funding for new oil and gas projects. The UN Secretary-General implores world leaders to “save humanity from the worst consequences of climate chaos and reap the remarkable benefits of renewable energy.”

A Clear Message

The authors of the report believe that governments with the means to transition away from fossil fuels should pursue even more ambitious reductions and support the transition process in countries with limited resources.

Mr. Guterres asserts that at COP28, the UN climate summit scheduled for the end of this month in Dubai, world leaders must transmit a resounding message that “the era of fossil fuels is running on fumes and its end is inescapable.”

For this transformation to occur, credible commitments to accelerate renewable energy adoption, phase out fossil fuels, and enhance energy efficiency are imperative to ensure a fair and equitable transition.

“Fossil fuels are undermining critical climate objectives. It is high time for change,” declares Mr. Guterres.

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