• Production Gap report shows countries planning much more fossil fuel production than climate targets allow

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      Patrick Lavery

      Combustion Industry News Editor

The second edition of the yearly Production Gap report, a collaboration between the UN Environment Programme, the Stockholm Environment Institute, the International Institute for Sustainable Development, the Overseas Development Institute, and the Centre for International Climate Research, has been released, pointing towards a mismatch between national climate targets and national fossil fuel production plans. According to the report, to “follow a 1.5°C-consistent pathway, the world will need to decrease fossil fuel production by roughly 6% per year between 2020 and 2030”. However, countries “are instead planning and projecting an average annual increase of 2%, which by 2030 would result in more than double the production consistent with the 1.5°C limit”. This is despite the researchers taking into account carbon dioxide removal practices (such as afforestation/reforestation) and carbon capture and storage, assuming 1 Gt/year is captured by 2030 and 5 Gt/year by 2040 – significant amounts considering that presently, only around 0.04 Gt/year is captured. It notes that a “global wind-down of fossil fuel production that would be consistent with staying below 1.5°C or 2°C could be achieved by a different mix of decline rates for coal, oil, and gas” if carbon capture and storage was more widely deployed and if more coal firing changed to gas than assumed in their model.

Additionally, the report finds that COVID-recovery spending packages announced by G20 countries by November 2020 have committed US$233 billion to “activities that support fossil fuel production and consumption (e.g. for airlines, car manufacturers, and fossil-based power consumers), as compared with US$146 billion to renewable energy, energy efficiency, and low-carbon alternatives such as cycling and pedestrian systems”, the researchers found. (This categorisation appears to want some nuance.)

On the whole, the report serves as a warning that the economics of climate change are yet to be resolved – the plans that national governments have for income have generally not been aligned with climate goals, and this aspect is something that governments will need to reconsider rather quickly, though alternatives may not be easy to find.