According to a recent UN report, the producers of fossil fuels are making plans to expand their operations, which would exceed the planet’s carbon budget by two times. This has been deemed as “insane” and raises concerns about the future of humanity.
According to the report, the energy strategies of petrostates are in conflict with their environmental commitments. The proposed plans would result in a significant increase of 460% in coal production, 83% in gas, and 29% in oil by 2030, exceeding the allowable amount for limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C as agreed upon internationally. This would also surpass the recommended limit of 69% for fossil fuel production in order to meet the more risky target of 2C.
The top contributors to carbon emissions from planned production of fossil fuels are India (coal), Saudi Arabia (oil), and Russia (coal, oil, and gas). The United States and Canada are also aiming to become major oil producers, along with the United Arab Emirates. The UAE will be hosting the important UN climate summit Cop28, beginning on November 30th.
The report clearly highlights the underlying conflict behind the climate crisis: the urgent need to drastically reduce fossil fuel consumption, while petrostates and companies continue to prioritize profits by increasing production and earning trillions of dollars annually.
Inger Andersen, the executive director of the UN environment programme, stated that many nations are still heavily reliant on fossil fuels, indicating the persistent grip of addiction. She expressed concern that these actions may jeopardize the future of humanity and urged governments to align their words and actions.
Neil Grant, a researcher at Climate Analytics and a contributor to the report, expressed concern that governments continue to invest in the declining and polluting fossil fuel industry instead of supporting the thriving clean energy sector. He also noted that this approach not only goes against economic logic but also contributes to the ongoing climate crisis.
2 emissions from fuel combustion in 2019
The report examines the top 20 countries that produce fossil fuels, accounting for 84% of carbon dioxide emissions from fuel burning in 2019.
In the year 2021, there were a total of 17 entities committed to reaching net zero emissions, according to Michael Lazarus of the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), who co-authored the report.
According to Lazarus, the issue is the desire of every country to optimize their own production. He believes that there should be a globally coordinated and fair approach to gradually eliminating the use of fossil fuels.
Extensive research has determined that the development of new oil and gas sites is not feasible if we want to meet the goal of limiting global heating to 1.5C, as outlined in the Paris Agreement. This was confirmed by a 2021 report from the International Energy Agency. In 2022, The Guardian exposed that the largest fossil fuel companies were making preparations for numerous “carbon bomb” projects involving oil and gas.
2 (carbon dioxide)
The recent analysis examined the growth strategies of major fossil fuel companies using data that is publicly accessible. It revealed that the difference between their projected production and the amount needed to limit global heating to 1.5C remains significant, similar to the findings from the original study conducted in 2019. It is predicted that by 2030, this gap will amount to 20 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.2
Approximately 50% of the current yearly worldwide emissions.
Following Saudi Arabia, the United States, Brazil, and Canada, the United Arab Emirates, the host of Cop28, ranks seventh in terms of oil expansion plans. Qatar holds the top spot for gas expansion plans, with Nigeria coming in third after Russia. India’s plans for coal expansion are particularly large, being three times the amount of Russia’s, while Indonesia and Australia rank third and fifth, respectively.
In total, just four nations have strategies in place to decrease overall fossil fuel emissions they generate: the United Kingdom, China, Norway, and Germany.
2 emissions is risky
The report stated that depending on unpredictable future technology to capture carbon dioxide emissions carries a high level of risk.2
Returning it to its subterranean location was a dangerous decision: “Nations should strive for almost complete elimination of coal production and consumption by 2040, and a collective decrease of 75% in oil and gas production and usage by 2050, at the very least.”
If the world takes action to reduce CO2, the proposed expansions could result in significant financial losses for fossil fuel producers.2
Ploy Achakulwisut, a lead author on the report at SEI, stated that taking action to reduce emissions is crucial in addressing the climate crisis. She also mentioned that numerous investments are in danger of becoming stranded assets as the global community moves towards decarbonization.
According to Romain Ioualalen, a member of the Oil Change International research group, their latest study reveals that only five wealthy countries in the global north are accountable for more than half (51%) of the proposed new oil and gas extraction until 2050. These countries, namely the US, Canada, Australia, Norway, and the UK, have an ethical and historical obligation to take the lead in transitioning away from fossil fuel production.
Fossil fuels are the root cause of the climate crisis, but the first time they were mentioned in the final text from a UN summit was in 2021. That was the 26th annual UN climate meeting, where a “phase down” of coal alone was called for.
“According to Andersen, beginning at Cop28, countries must come together to support a controlled and fair elimination of coal, oil, and gas. This will help alleviate potential challenges and positively impact every individual on Earth. Utilizing clean energy to fuel economies is the sole solution to eradicating energy poverty and reducing emissions simultaneously.”
The UN secretary-general, António Guterres, expressed concern over governments’ increased reliance on fossil fuel production, stating that this poses a serious threat to both people and the planet. He also warned that the continued use of fossil fuels is hindering efforts to achieve crucial climate goals.