Fossil fuel output must fall 6% a year to 2030 to meet climate goals – report

Fossil fuel production must fall by around 6% a year in the next decade to curb global warming to 1.5C and avoid “severe climate disruption”, a report warns.

But countries are planning to increase the production of coal, oil and gas by around 2% a year which would mean that they will be producing double the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than would be in line with the 1.5C goal.

The warning comes in the 2020 Production Gap report from research organisations and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Under the Paris Agreement, countries have committed to curbing warming to “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5C – seen as the threshold above which the worst impacts of climate change will be felt.

The Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown measures to halt its spread have led to short term drops in oil, coal and gas production – with estimates that fossil fuel output could decline by 7% in 2020.

But the report warns that plans from before the pandemic and post-Covid stimulus measures point to a continuation of the gap between production and the curbs needed, locking in severe climate disruption.

Governments in the G20 group of leading economies have committed more than 230 billion US dollars (£170 billion) to sectors responsible for fossil fuel production and consumption as part of Covid-19 measures.

That is far more than the 150 billion US dollars (£110 billion) that has gone to clean energy, the report warned.

The pandemic recovery is a potential turning point where countries must change course to avoid locking in production of fossil fuels that will push goals to prevent dangerous climate change out of reach, the report said.

It calls for action by governments including reducing existing support for fossil fuels, introducing restrictions on production and ensuring that stimulus funds go to green investments.

Any support for high-carbon sectors should come with conditions attached to ensure they line up with climate goals over the long term.

Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP): “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.

“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,” she urged.

The report was produced by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), the Overseas Development Institute, E3G, and UNEP.

Michael Lazarus, a lead author on the report and the director of SEI’s US Centre, said: “The research is abundantly clear that we face severe climate disruption if countries continue to produce fossil fuels at current levels, let alone at their planned increases.

“The research is similarly clear on the solution: government policies that decrease both the demand and supply for fossil fuels and support communities currently dependent on them.”

The report also said the shift away from fossil fuels should be just and equitable, with developed countries with greater financial capacity and which are less dependent on fossil fuels winding down production rapidly.

Poorer countries which are heavily dependent on fossil fuel production income will need international support to make the transition, it said.