This story includes details about the impacts of climate change that may be difficult for some readers. If you are feeling overwhelmed by this crisis situation here is a list of resources on how to cope with fears and feelings about the scope and pace of the climate crisis.
The world’s 20 biggest fossil fuel-producing countries are set to extract more than enough oil, gas, and coal in 2030 to defeat any hope of holding global warming to a relatively safe 1.5°C, and Canada is projecting the fourth-largest increase in oil production, according to a new analysis released this morning.
“Despite encouraging signs of an emerging clean energy transition, the world’s governments still plan to produce more than double the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C,” states the 2023 Production Gap Report produced by the Stockholm Environmental Institute (SEI), Climate Analytics, E3G, the Winnipeg-based International Institute for Sustainable Development, and the United Nations Environment Programme.
If that trend continues, the remaining carbon budget that gives humanity a 50-50 chance of hitting the 1.5°C target will be used up by 2030, the report warns.
“Governments are literally doubling down on fossil fuel production; that spells double trouble for people and planet,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in response to the report. “We cannot address climate catastrophe without tackling its root cause: fossil fuel dependence. Fossil fuel emissions are already causing climate chaos which is devastating lives and livelihoods, and we’re on course for far worse.”
The report shows Canada’s current policy mix delivering increases in oil and gas production through 2050. Latest modelling by the Canada Energy Regulator points to reductions, but not phaseouts, by 2050.
“Fossil fuels are causing the climate, health and affordability crises that are hurting people across Canada and the world,” said Julia Levin, associate director, national climate at Environmental Defence Canada, in an email response to the report. “Governments should be going all in on rapidly phasing out oil and gas production and deploying reliable, effective, and affordable solutions, like solar energy and heat pumps.”
But that’s not where Canada and other countries are headed so far. Despite the updated emission reduction pledges they issued in September, 2022, “many major fossil fuel-producing governments are still planning near-term increases in coal production and long-term increases in oil and gas production,” the report says. “In total, government plans and projections would lead to an increase in global production until 2030 for coal, and until at least 2050 for oil and gas, creating increasingly large production gaps over time.”
Of the 20 countries profiled in the report, 17 have adopted net-zero emissions pledges, and many have set out to reduce emissions from fossil fuel production. But the commitments to date are “deeply insufficient”, the report concludes: for example, while 14 of the 20 have adopted a Global Methane Pledge that calls for a 30% reduction by 2030, a decline of more than 60% will be needed to align with the 1.5°C climate target.
More broadly, most of the countries “continue to promote, subsidize, support, and plan on the expansion of fossil fuel production. None have committed to reduce coal, oil, and gas production in line with limiting warming to 1.5°C.”
The report calls on countries with “greater transition capacity” to move faster and lead the shift out of fossil fuel production, adding that their failure to do so creates confusion in energy markets and increases the massive risk of stranded assets. The mismatch between national climate promises and fossil fuel production plans “undermines efforts to reduce fossil fuel use and emissions by sending mixed signals about countries’ intentions and priorities and by locking in new fossil fuel production infrastructure that will make the energy transition more costly, difficult, and disruptive,” the authors say. “A well-managed energy transition will thus require plans and actions to reduce both fossil fuel production and consumption in a coordinated fashion.”
But by combining fossil phaseout and emission reduction targets with policies to ensure a fair, practical transition for affected work forces and communities, countries can “reduce the costs of decarbonization, promote policy coherence, and ensure that renewables replace, rather than add to, fossil fuel energy.”
SEI and its publishing partners also point to “large uncertainties” surrounding carbon dioxide removal (CDR) and carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies that still figure prominently in the climate modelling on which the Production Gap Report was based. “Around 80% of pilot CCS projects over the last 30 years have failed,” the report notes, and there are “widespread concerns around the potential negative impacts arising from extensive land use for conventional or novel CDR, which could affect biodiversity, food security, and the rights of Indigenous peoples and traditional land users.”
“The potential failure of these measures to become sufficiently viable at scale, the non-climatic near-term harms of fossil fuels, and other lines of evidence, call for an even more rapid global phaseout of all fossil fuels,” the authors conclude.