The world is on track to produce far more coal, oil and gas than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C or 2°C, creating a “production gap” that makes climate goals much harder to reach, according to the first report to assess countries’ plans and projections for fossil fuel production.
The Production Gap Report complements the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Emissions Gap Report, which shows that country pledges fall short of the emission reductions needed to meet global temperature limits.
Countries are planning to produce fossil fuels far in excess of the levels needed to fulfil their climate pledges under the Paris Agreement, which themselves are far from adequate. This overinvestment in coal, oil, and gas supply locks in fossil fuel infrastructure that will make emissions reductions harder to achieve.
“Over the past decade, the climate conversation has shifted. There’s greater recognition of the role that the unfettered expansion of fossil fuel production plays in undermining climate progress,” said Michael Lazarus, a lead author on the report and the director of Stockholm Environment Institute’s US Center. “This report shows, for the first time, just how big the disconnect is between Paris temperature goals and countries’ plans and policies for coal, oil, and gas production. It also shares solutions, suggesting ways to help close this gap through domestic policies and international cooperation.”
The report was produced by leading research organizations, including the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), International Institute for Sustainable Development, Overseas Development Institute, CICERO Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research, Climate Analytics, and UNEP. Over fifty researchers contributed to the analysis and review, spanning numerous universities and additional research organizations.
In the report preface, UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen notes that carbon emissions have remained exactly at the levels projected a decade ago, under the business-as-usual scenarios used in Emissions Gap Reports.
“This calls for a sharpened, and long overdue, focus on fossil fuels,” she writes. “The world’s energy supply remains dominated by coal, oil and gas, driving emission levels that are inconsistent with climate goals. To that end, this report introduces the fossil fuel production gap, a new metric that clearly shows the gap between increasing fossil fuel production and the decline needed to limit global warming.”
The report’s main findings include:
- The world is on track to produce about 50% more fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 2°C and 120% more than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C.
- This production gap is largest for coal. Countries plan to produce 150% more coal in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 2°C, and 280% more than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C.
- Oil and gas are also on track to exceed carbon budgets, with continued investment and infrastructure locking in use of these fuels, until countries are producing between 40% and 50% more oil and gas by 2040 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 2°C.
- National projections suggest that countries are planning on 17% more coal, 10% more oil and 5% more gas production in 2030 than consistent with NDC implementation (which itself is not enough to limit warming to 1.5°C or 2°C).
Countries have numerous options for closing the production gap, including limiting exploration and extraction, removing subsidies, and aligning future production plans with climate goals. The report details these options, as well as those available through international cooperation under the Paris Agreement.
The authors also emphasize the importance of a just transition away from fossil fuels.
“There is a pressing need to ensure that those affected by social and economic change are not left behind,” said report author and SEI Research Fellow Cleo Verkuijl. “At the same time, transition planning can build consensus for more ambitious climate policy.”
The Production Gap Report comes as more than 60 countries have already committed to updating their nationally determined contributions (NDCs), which set out their new emission reduction plans and climate pledges under the Paris Agreement, by 2020.
“Countries can use this opportunity to integrate strategies to manage fossil fuel production into their NDCs – which in turn will help them reach emission reduction goals,” said Niklas Hagelberg, UNEP’s climate change coordinator.
“Despite more than two decades of climate policy making, fossil fuel production levels are higher than ever,” said SEI’s Executive Director, Måns Nilsson. “This report shows that governments’ continued support for coal, oil and gas extraction is a big part of the problem. We’re in a deep hole – and we need to stop digging.”
About the UN Environment Programme
UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.
Greening the blue: championing coastal climate solutions
They call them ‘blue forests’—and they are among the most productive and valuable habitats on Earth.
Mangroves might not look like much to some, but these humble salt-loving species are vital to coastal ecosystems and communities the world over. They are a crucial breeding habitat for aquatic wildlife—with some 75 per cent of commercially fished species either spending part of their life cycle in mangrove ecosystems or depending on the habitat for food. They also protect the coasts themselves, with their dense root systems acting as natural buffers against storm surges.
However, it’s their potential in the fight against climate change that is making mangroves the new superstars of coastal conservation efforts.
“Mangroves and other ‘blue carbon’ ecosystems like sea grasses and salt marshes are incredibly efficient at storing carbon,” UN Environment Programme (UNEP) international waters expert Isabelle Vanderbeck says.
“They can absorb and store as much as 10 times as much carbon as terrestrial ecosystems—so it goes without saying that they are a critical part of efforts to overcome climate change.”
But despite their value to the environment and coastal economies alike, globally mangroves are being lost at an alarming rate — three to five times faster than other forests.
“Over one third of the world’s mangroves have been lost over the last 100 years,” Vanderbeck says. “It’s a trend that has to stop now if the species and communities that depend on them are to survive.”
Nature-based climate solutions
However, growing recognition of mangroves’ role in both mitigating and adapting to climate change, combined with a growing global market for carbon offsets, is providing a lifeline for mangrove ecosystems the world over.
With backing from the Global Environment Facility, the Blue Forests Project—a collaboration between UNEP and GRID-Arendal—is working with partners across eight countries to test ‘blue carbon’ and other nature-based climate solutions, setting the stage for countries to help countries fulfil the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement by upscaling these approaches globally.
“Through the Blue Forests Project, we are exploring how coastal carbon and ecosystem services can be harnessed to fight climate change, boost conservation and provide sustainable livelihoods,” Steven Lutz, project coordinator at GRID-Arendal, says.
“Blue Forests builds on ‘blue carbon’ market success.” Lutz says. “Our partner site in Gazi Bay, Kenya is the world’s first working blue carbon’ market project, where carbon finance has been supporting communities to conserve and restore mangrove forests for the past few years. Profit from the Gazi Bay project also supports community development activities such as the building of freshwater wells.”
Blue carbon goes global
Just last month, the project celebrated its latest milestone, with the launch of the world’s largest community-based mangrove carbon finance conservation initiative in Madagascar in partnership with Blue Ventures.
Under the project—dubbed ‘Tairy Honko’, or ‘preserving mangroves’ in the local Vezo dialect—communities across the Velondriake Locally Managed Marine Area in Madagascar’s remote southwest are uniting to restore and conserve over 1,200 hectares of mangroves.
Together with blue carbon sales in Vanga Bay and Gazi Bay in Kenya, achieved in partnership with the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, the Madagascar project represents an expansion of the market for blue carbon offsets by an order of magnitude, with Blue Forests having brought a total 1,500 hectares of mangrove forests to the voluntary carbon market.
“Over 1,500 hectares of mangrove forests are now available on the voluntary carbon market, Lutz says. “With support from the Global Environment Facility and partners, the Blue Forests Project has been able to expand the carbon market for blue carbon offsets by over an order of magnitude.”
The Tahiry Honko initiative is set to offset global emissions, with verified ‘blue carbon’ credit sales providing the funds needed to support local management of the marine protected area and finance community development, including infrastructure, healthcare and education.
“We inherited these mangroves from our ancestors, providing materials we need to survive,” Velondriake Locally Managed Marine Area Association member Joel François says. “I want to ensure we can pass these forests on to our children.”
“Through the Blue Forests Project, we have been able to demonstrate that the carbon market can work to achieve goals in sustainable development and the mitigation of climate change”, Isabelle Vanderbeck says. “Next steps include supporting countries to include blue carbon solutions in national pledges to fulfil the Paris Climate Agreement.”
More than half of EU consumers have environmental impact in mind when shopping
Today the European Commission released its 2019 edition of the Consumer Conditions Scoreboard. It shows that the overall gap in consumer conditions is narrowing between the different regions of the EU; that consumers are more aware about their environmental footprint; and that consumer rules enable trust in the marketplace.
Věra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality said: “The latest figures show that over 70% of consumers trust retailers to respect their rights, but they also show that work to improve consumer conditions and trust must continue. And the New Deal for Consumers will indeed further strengthen the hand of consumers and authorities. I am glad to see that consumers are increasingly aware of their environmental footprint when shopping. As the Christmas season approaches, I encourage all consumers to engage with trustworthy traders, know their rights, and indeed buy responsibly.”
Amid growing awareness of climate warming and global plastic contamination, the survey finds that an increasing proportion of EU consumers consider the environmental impact of their purchases. The more environmentally conscious EU consumers are those in southern (59%) and eastern European countries (57%). A clear majority of retailers (71%) think that environmental claims made for products or services in their sector are reliable.
Consumer conditions decline in western Europe, but continue to improve in other parts of the EU, with southern and eastern EU countries narrowing the gap with the EU average. However, the difference between the highest scoring country (Sweden, with 71%) and the lowest (Croatia, with 53%) remains significant.
Over 70% of EU consumers trust retailers to respect their consumer rights. Mirroring this trend, more than 70% of retailers find it easy to comply with consumer legislation. In addition, most EU retailers assess positively the enforcement of consumer and product safety legislation in their sector. The highest marks go to enforcement of product safety legislation, where three quarters of retailers appreciate the monitoring work of public authorities.
Consumers buying online has reached around 60% in 2018 and continues to progress in spite of strong disparities ranging from 84% in Denmark to around 20% in Romania and Bulgaria. However, consumers’ trust in buying cross-border from other EU countries (48%) is significantly lower than in domestic online buying (72%).
The Consumer Conditions Scoreboard monitors national conditions for consumers in three areas:
1. knowledge and trust
2. compliance and enforcement
3. complaints and dispute resolution
It also examines progress in the integration of the EU retail market and in e-commerce. Its main data sources are representative surveys with consumers and with retailers in EU Member States, as well as Iceland and Norway.
Donors must do more to align development finance with climate goals
Donor countries must do more to bring development finance in line with climate goals, raising the share used for climate action and reducing to zero the amount that supports new fossil fuel activities, according to a new OECD report.
Aligning Development Co-operation and Climate Action: The Only Way Forward finds that only 20% of development finance provided each year by members of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) over 2013-17 included a focus on climate change. For multilateral providers such as U.N. agencies and international development banks, 40% of finance included a climate focus. Overall, while development finance used for renewables and energy efficiency is rising, this continues to be undermined by the financing of new fossil fuel-based energy.
“It is encouraging to see donors moving in the right direction to bring development finance in line with climate goals, but we must not rest until we have zero aid going to fossil fuels and more going to tackle climate change,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “Given the climate emergency we are facing, and the fact developing countries will suffer some of the greatest impacts, there is simply no excuse for using foreign aid to subsidise fossil fuels.”
The report looks at both concessional (grants and loans on generous terms) and non-concessional development finance from DAC-members, non-DAC members and multilateral providers.
It finds that globally, countries have roughly doubled flows of development finance going to support renewable energy since the 2015 Paris Agreement, from an average of USD 5.6 billion per year in 2014-15 to USD 12.2 billion per year in 2016-17.
Yet in 2016 and 2017, an annual average of USD 3.9 billion – 1.4% of total development finance of USD 283 billion – was used for fossil fuel activities. Of that amount, 23% was bilateral aid from DAC members. Almost all of the remaining 77% was development finance from multilateral providers.
Momentum is growing as more bilateral and multilateral providers commit to aligning development flows with the Paris Agreement. A number of multilateral providers are reducing financing for coal-fired power generation and making further commitments to steer more finance away from fossil fuels. For example, the European Investment Bank Group (EIB) recently committed to align all financing activities with Paris Agreement goals by 2020 and stop financing fossil fuel energy projects from the end of 2021. A survey of aid providers carried out for the report found that a third of respondents have exclusion lists for fossil fuel intensive activities.
Yet progress is not happening quickly enough, and many donors still lack mandates, resources, incentives and strategies to ensure they are factoring in climate change. In addition to development flows, export credits are a major public instrument for trade promotion that undermine climate goals. According to an analysis of OECD countries that have reported data, 58% of official export credits that support energy production benefit fossil fuel technologies.
Aid activities that are inconsistent with the Paris Agreement, such as financing infrastructure or economic activities that are high-emitting and not climate resilient, risk locking countries into development pathways that will exacerbate and increase vulnerability to climate change. These risks create stranded assets and debt distress, making it harder to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Low-emissions, climate-resilient pathways are the only sound option for achieving sustainable energy access and poverty reduction goals.
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