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Canada shows up as the world’s fourth-biggest oil and gas producer, and global fossil fuel production in 2030 will still be more than double the amount that would match a 1.5°C climate pathway, according to the 2021 Production Gap Report due to be released this morning by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
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The study of more than 15 major fossil-producing countries, including Canada, found that key governments are planning to extract 240% more coal, 57% more oil, and 71% more natural gas at the end of this decade than would be consistent with the 1.5°C target in the Paris climate agreement, UNEP says, in an initial release distributed earlier this week.
Despite increasing urgency and insistent demands for faster, deeper carbon cuts, “the size of the production gap has remained largely unchanged compared to our prior assessments,” the release states.
The UN agency points to the decades between 2020 and 2040 as the prime time for expanded natural gas production. Gas is increasingly extracted through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a process that releases large volumes of methane—a climate super-pollutant that is about 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over the 20-year span when humanity will be scrambling to get climate change under control.
The country profiles for Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States “show that most of these governments continue to provide significant policy support for fossil fuel production,” UNEP adds.
“Recent announcements by the world’s largest economies to end international financing of coal are a much-needed step in phasing out fossil fuels,” but “there is still a long way to go to a clean energy future,” said UN Secretary General António Guterres. “It is urgent that all remaining public financiers as well as private finance, including commercial banks and asset managers, switch their funding from coal to renewables to promote full decarbonization of the power sector and access to renewable energy for all.”
“There is still time to limit long-term warming to 1.5°C, but this window of opportunity is rapidly closing,” said UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen. “At COP 26 and beyond, the world’s governments must step up, taking rapid and immediate steps to close the fossil fuel production gap and ensure a just and equitable transition. This is what climate ambition looks like.”
“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°C,” said Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) scientist and lead author Ploy Achakulwisut. “However, governments continue to plan for and support levels of fossil fuel production that are vastly in excess of what we can safely burn.”
“Fossil fuel-producing nations must recognize their role and responsibility in closing the production gap and steering us towards a safe climate future,” said SEI Executive Director Måns Nilsson. ”As countries increasingly commit to net-zero emissions by mid-century, they also need to recognize the rapid reduction in fossil fuel production that their climate targets will require.”
While “early efforts from development finance institutions to cut international support for fossil fuel production are encouraging,” added Lucile Dufour, senior policy advisor at the Winnipeg-based International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD, “these changes need to be followed by concrete and ambitious fossil fuel exclusion policies.”
“We need to stop pumping oil and gas from the ground if we are to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement,” said Costa Rica environment and energy minister Andrea Meza. “We must cut with both hands of the scissors, addressing demand and supply of fossil fuels simultaneously.”