As countless studies show, countries must significantly reduce their emissions to meet the Paris Agreement goals. Current climate pledges will only limit global warming to about 3°C above preindustrial levels, by the end of the century; the UN Environment Emissions Gap Report estimates that countries need to triple their emission reduction pledges to limit warming to the Paris goal of “well below” 2°C and increase reductions fivefold for a 1.5°C scenario.
This emissions gap is related to — and widened by — the “production gap.” Countries continue to expand the production of coal, oil, and gas, creating a significant gap between that expansion and what is possible to use within the limits of a 1.5°C or 2°C carbon budget. This gap stymies climate ambitions by locking in fossil fuel infrastructure that will make emission reductions harder and more costly to achieve.
The Production Gap Report — set for release in November 2019 — will equip decision-makers with a resource on how to better align fossil fuel production with climate objectives. It will show how current national plans, projections, and policies would significantly increase fossil fuel production, and could thereby potentially undermine countries’ emission reduction plans. The report will provide a reference point to measure progress, simply presenting the divergence between the current course of global fossil fuel production and future pathways consistent with Paris goals.
This brief shares preliminary findings, which suggest that the world is on track to produce 50% more fossil fuels by 2030 than would be consistent with a 2°C pathway and 120% more than would be consistent with a 1.5°C pathway. It also lays out how countries can keep fossil fuel production in line with climate goals.
The 2019–2020 period is an opportune moment to bridge this production gap. Countries are in the process of preparing new or updated nationally determined contributions (NDCs), which set out their new emission reduction plans and climate pledges under the Paris Agreement. The UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit in September 2019 is a key part of this process, with the Secretary-General calling on governments to enhance ambitions and to stop building new coal plants in 2020. The Summit is a space for countries to start aligning coal production — as well as oil and gas supply — with the Paris goals.