Countries’ climate pledges under the Paris agreement are insufficient, according to many scientists and environmental experts.
But planned production of coal, oil and gas over the next decade far outstrips even those already inadequate targets for limiting climate change.
Published on Wednesday, the Production Gap Report from leading research organisations and the United Nations is the first document to assess the profound gulf between Paris goals and national plans for fossil fuel production.
The world is on track to produce 120 percent more fossil fuels by 2030 than is consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and 50 percent more than could be consumed with a two-degree temperature increase.
“This report shows, for the first time, just how big the disconnect is between Paris temperature goals and countries’ plans and policies for coal, oil, and gas production,” said Michael Lazarus, lead author of the report and the director of the United States office for the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI).
Lazarus said the intention was to share solutions that could “help close the gap through domestic policies and international cooperation”.
The UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), Climate Analytics and Overseas Development Institute were among the other groups that contributed to the report’s analysis and review.
UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said in the report preface that present carbon emissions have remained exactly at the levels projected a decade ago, under the scenarios described as “business-as-usual”.
Andersen characterised the production gap as a new metric highlighting the difference “between increasing fossil fuel production and the decline needed to limit global warming”.
The report said that the gap was largest for coal, with countries producing 280 percent more in 2030 than the level needed to keep warming to 1.5 degrees.
Oil and gas are also far exceeding carbon budgets, as new investments in energy infrastructure for those fuels lock countries into around 50 percent more production by 2040 than would be acceptable within the two-degree warming level.
To close the gap, the report recommended removing fossil fuel subsidies, as well as restricting exploration and extraction by companies. It also advocated a just transition to renewable sources.
“There is a pressing need to ensure that those affected by social and economic change are not left behind,” said Cleo Verkuijl, report co-author and SEI Research Fellow.
More than 60 countries have already updated their nationally determined contributions, establishing more ambitious plans for emissions reductions.
The UN Climate Change Conference in Spain’s capital next month could, however, reveal a dearth of political will to launch speedy economic transformations.
“Fossil fuel production levels are higher than ever,” said Mans Nilsson, SEI’s executive director. “We’re in a deep hole, and we need to stop digging.”
The report refers to the “necessary winding down” of energy sources that contribute so heavily to greenhouse gas emissions. It juxtaposes the discrepancy between what climate experts say needs to happen and the reality that the “world is awash in fossil fuels” to burn.
Fossil fuels account for more than three-quarters of global greenhouse emissions, and burning those specifically for energy use constitutes almost two-thirds.
May Boeve, executive director at 350.org, said that the effects of slow progress are evident on a daily basis.
“We are witnessing the impacts of climate breakdown, from the wildfires in the Congo, California and Australia to the devastating floods in Europe,” Boeve said in a statement provided to Al Jazeera.
“For the first time, the UN has presented the crystal-clear science: we must stop the expansion of the fossil fuel industry immediately,” she added. “Not a single new mine can be dug, not another pipeline built, not one more well dropped into the ocean.”
“And we have to get to work immediately transitioning to sustainable renewable energy powered energy systems,” Boeve said.
“As countries prepare to attend the upcoming UN climate talks in Madrid, this report underlines the urgency of increasing commitments for reducing emissions.”