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Fossil fuel production twice as high as needed to meet Paris goals

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By Euronews
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In this Wednesday, July 29, 2020 file photo, a view of a pump jack operateing in an oil field in Midland, Texas.
In this Wednesday, July 29, 2020 file photo, a view of a pump jack operateing in an oil field in Midland, Texas.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File

Governments are planning on producing more than twice the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than the level necessary to limit global warming to the Paris agreement goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius, a UN-backed study has said.

Many oil and gas producers plan on increasing production and several coal producers are planning on continuing or increasing production, the report said.

Fossil fuel production is also 45% higher than what would be consistent with limiting warming to the less ambitious goal of two degrees Celsius.

More than 80 researchers contributed to the study, which was backed by the United Nations Environment Programme.

"The devastating impacts of climate change are here for all to see. There is still time to limit long-term warming to 1.5°C, but this window of opportunity is rapidly closing," said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme in a statement.

Andersen called for governments to step up and take steps to close the "fossil fuel production gap" at the upcoming climate summit.

While many governments have pledged to reduce emissions or set net-zero targets, they have not cut the production of fossil fuels, the study found, stating that this "production gap" has stayed largely unchanged since 2019.

A recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that time was running out to limit warming.

Måns Nilsson, executive director at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), stressed that "fossil-fuel-producing nations must recognise their role and responsibility in closing the production gap and steering us towards a safe climate future."

"As countries increasingly commit to net-zero emissions by mid-century, they also need to recognise the rapid reduction in fossil fuel production that their climate targets will require," he said.

The report flags that G20 countries have directed nearly $300 billion (€258 billion) in new funds towards fossil fuel activities since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic — more than they have toward clean energy.

China is expected to boost oil and gas production by 5% and 58% and to decrease coal production by 8% by 2030; US authorities project production for oil and gas will increase by 17% and 12% respectively above 2019 levels by 2030, which would "largely go to exports"; while Moscow plans to increase gas and coal production by 38% and 52% respectively by 2035.

“The research is clear: global coal, oil, and gas production must start declining immediately and steeply to be consistent with limiting long-term warming to 1.5°C," Ploy Achakulwisut, a lead author on the report and SEI scientist, said in a statement.

"However, governments continue to plan for and support levels of fossil fuel production that are vastly in excess of what we can safely burn," he added.

The UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, is being held from 31 October to 12 November in Glasgow, where world leaders will meet to discuss climate change.