The world needs to decrease fossil fuel production by 6% per year to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius between 2020 and 2030, according to the United Nations Environment Program's (UNEP) 2020 Production Gap Report on Thursday.
A special issue of the Production Gap Report – from leading research organizations and the UN – measures the gap between Paris Agreement goals and countries’ planned production of coal, oil and gas. This year's special issue looks at the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic – and governments’ stimulus and recovery measures – on coal, oil and gas production.
It found that the COVID-19 recovery marks a potential turning point in which countries must change course to avoid locking in levels of coal, oil and gas production far higher than consistent with a 1.5 degrees Celsius limit.
The report also highlighted that the “production gap” remains large as countries plan to produce more than double the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with a 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature limit.
“This year’s devastating forest fires, floods, and droughts and other unfolding extreme weather events serve as powerful reminders for why we must succeed in tackling the climate crisis. As we seek to reboot economies following the COVID-19 pandemic, investing in low-carbon energy and infrastructure will be good for jobs, for economies, for health, and for clean air,” Inger Andersen, executive director of the UNEP was quoted as saying.
Andersen stressed that governments must seize the opportunity to direct their economies and energy systems away from fossil fuels and build back better towards a more just, sustainable, and resilient future.
Reiterating that G20 governments, to date, have committed over $230 billion in COVID-19 measures to sectors responsible for fossil fuel production and consumption, far more than to clean energy which is roughly $150 billion, the report authors urge for policymakers to reverse this trend to meet climate goals.
“The pandemic-driven demand shock and the plunge of oil prices this year has once again demonstrated the vulnerability of many fossil-fuel-dependent regions and communities. The only way out of this trap is diversification of these economies beyond fossil fuels. Alas, in 2020 we saw many governments doubling down on fossil fuels and entrenching these vulnerabilities even more,” Ivetta Gerasimchuk, a lead author of the report, also said.
Instead, governments should direct recovery funds towards economic diversification and a transition to clean energy that offers better long-term economic and employment potential, Gerasimchuk noted, adding "This may be one of the most challenging undertakings of the 21st century, but it’s necessary and achievable.”
By Ebru Sengul Cevrioglu