According to a new United Nations-backed report, the world needs to decrease its coal, oil, and gas output by more than half in the next decade to keep global warming from reaching dangerous levels.
While governments have made ambitious pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) found that they are still planning to extract double the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with the 2015 Paris climate agreement’s goal of keeping global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).
The Production Gap report examined 15 major fossil fuel producers, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and was released 10 days before the COP26 climate summit, which was billed as critical to the viability of the Paris Agreement temperature goals.
It warned that government fossil fuel production plans for this decade are “dangerously out of sync” with the emissions reductions required, warning that countries plan to produce 110 per cent more fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and 45 per cent more than would be consistent with limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.
Since the start of the pandemic, G20 countries have directed more new investment to fossil fuels than sustainable energy, according to the report. (So much for the idea that the pandemic offered a chance for a “smooth recovery”!)Between 2020 and 2040, global gas output is expected to expand the highest. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, countries have allocated more than $300 billion in fresh funds to fossil fuel initiatives, far more than they have to clean energy.
The International Energy Agency announced last week that the usage of coal, the most polluting fossil fuel, has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020. It started in May that no additional oil and gas production would be compatible with the 1.5°C goals.
Countries committed to limiting global warming to 1.5°C to 2°C through comprehensive carbon cuts as part of the 2015 Paris Agreement. Every five years, each signatory is required to submit new emissions-cutting plans, known as National Determined Contributions, or NDCs.According to a UN report released last month, if all countries’ newest NDCs are met, Earth will warm by 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2100, which would be “catastrophic.” The organisers of COP26, which begins on October 31 in Glasgow, said they want the summit to keep the 1.5°C objectives in insight.
World leaders will meet in Glasgow in just ten days for a major two-week UN climate summit to debate how to reduce emissions. The contrast between their words and their actions is what the report enhances. It also emphasises the importance of including the phase-out of fossil fuels in the debates. Indeed, the International Energy Agency recently stated that if countries are to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, they must immediately stop subsidising new fossil fuel projects. That means no additional projects will be approved beyond what has already been promised.
Despite widespread consensus on the need to address climate change, many countries remain hesitant to act, as evidenced by a recent BBC article revealing that Saudi Arabia, Japan, and Australia are among the countries lobbying the UN to downplay the need to transition away from fossil fuels. Public pressure to act on climate change, on the other hand, is at an all-time high, as sections of the globe have already become uninhabitable.
Crossing 1.5 degrees
Scientists warn that temperature rises of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius will result in more heatwaves, severe rainstorms, water shortages, and drought, as well as increased economic losses, reduced crop yields, rising sea levels, and coral reef devastation. Maintaining the 1.5°C targets will necessitate significant efforts to reduce carbon emissions by roughly half by 2030 and net-zero – or carbon neutrality – by 2050. However, current pledged action by countries puts the world on course to warm by 2-3 degrees by the end of the century.
The annual mean global temperature is expected to be at least 1 degree warmer than pre-industrial levels in the next five years, with a range of 0.9-1.8 degrees. According to the Met Office, the chances of any one year in the following five surpassing the 1.5-degree threshold have almost doubled compared to a similar analysis last year, owing to an upgraded temperature record used as the baseline.
How long do we have before co2 levels rise so that global temperatures of 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels are inevitable?
Even if larger and more ambitious cuts were made after 2030, the Paris targets for reducing emissions would not be enough. To keep global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius, manmade global net carbon dioxide emissions would have to drop by about 45 per cent by 2030 from 2010 levels and reach “net zero” by the middle of the century.
To keep below the 1.5°C limits, renewable energy would need to supply 70 to 85 per cent of electricity by 2050, according to the summary, compared to approximately 25 per cent presently. Using carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, gas-fired power would have to be reduced to 8%, while coal would have to be reduced to 0% to 2%. The summary made no reference to oil in this context. Additional carbon removal methods would be required to reduce warming to below 1.5C by 2100 if the average global temperature briefly exceeded 1.5C. However, the report stated that the effectiveness of actions such as growing forests, using bioenergy, or capturing and storing CO2 had not been established on a wide scale and had certain risks.
Because of the risks of deploying such technology, steps like reflecting incoming solar radiation into space were not considered, according to the report. It claimed that keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius would result in sea levels being 10 cm lower by 2100 than if it was 2 degrees Celsius, the Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer occurring once every century rather than once every decade, and coral reefs declining by 70-90 per cent rather than being virtually wiped out.