Citizen Action Monitor

YIKES! — World governments to produce 50% more fossil fuels by 2030, exceeding 2°C warming limit

We’re in a deep hole over the climate crisis and we need to stop digging,’ warn experts.

No 2548 Posted by fw, November 20, 2019

“The world’s nations are on track to produce more than twice as much coal, oil and gas as can be burned in 2030 while restricting rise in the global temperature to 1.5°C, analysis shows. The [UN Production Gap 2019] report is the first to compare countries’ stated plans for fossil fuel extraction with the goals of the Paris climate agreement, which is to keep global heating well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and to aim for 1.5°C. It exposes a huge gap, with fossil fuel production in 2030 heading for 50% more than is consistent with 2°C, and 120% more than that for 1.5°C. The analysis is based on the published national plans of eight key producers: Australia, Canada, Russia, US, China, India, Indonesia and Norway, which account for 60% of global fossil fuel production. … Scientists have warned that even the difference between 1.5°C and 2°C of heating will expose hundreds of millions of people to significantly higher risks of extreme heatwaves, drought, floods and poverty. … Most action to tackle the climate crisis involves reducing emissions, but Inger Andersen, head of the UN Environment Programme, said a focus on fossil fuel production was long overdue. Most of the action pledges made by countries under the Paris deal do not even mention changes to production.”Damian Carrington, The Guardian

The UN Report cites Canada as one of the governments that is taking ‘some’ but not enough action. Appended to the end of this repost of Damian’s article is my excerpt from the UN report summarizing Canada’s calculated support for fossil fuel production, noting —

“Canada has encouraged the production of oil and natural gas through several government measures, including tax incentives, regulatory reform, research and development support, and, most recently, direct public investment. … Though Canada plans to address domestic emissions by putting in place a nation-wide carbon price, fossil fuel production is expected to grow progressively, largely driven by oil sands expansion. Canada’s Energy Future 2018 projects oil production to increase 60% from 2017 to 2040.”  

Below is my slightly edited repost of Damian Carrington’s article, including my added subheadings, text highlighting and some bulletted reformatting. To read his original piece on The Guardian’s website – but without my appended excerpt about Canada — click on the following linked title.

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Fossil fuel production on track for double the safe climate limit by Damian Carrington, The Guardian, November 20, 2019

We’re in a deep hole over the climate crisis and we need to stop digging,” warn experts. The UK was the first major economy to commit to net zero emissions, but subsidizes fossil fuel production at home and abroad, experts say.

World governments on track to produce 50% more fossil fuels by 2030, exceeding a 2°C warming limit

The world’s nations are on track to produce more than twice as much coal, oil and gas as can be burned in 2030 while restricting rise in the global temperature to 1.5°C, analysis shows. The [UN Production Gap 2019] report is the first to compare countries’ stated plans for fossil fuel extraction with the goals of the Paris climate agreement, which is to keep global heating well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and to aim for 1.5°C. It exposes a huge gap, with fossil fuel production in 2030 heading for 50% more than is consistent with 2°C, and 120% more than that for 1.5°C.

UN Report based on published plans of eight governments, including Canada

The analysis is based on the published national plans of eight key producers: Australia, Canada, Russia, US, China, India, Indonesia and Norway, which account for 60% of global fossil fuel production. The plans of other big producers, including Saudi Arabia and Iran, are not publicly available. The researchers assumed these nations would follow similar paths as the eight countries that were covered.

The UN Report warns hundreds of millions of people will be exposed to much higher risks of extreme heatwaves, drought, floods and poverty

Scientists have warned that even the difference between 1.5°C and 2°C of heating will expose hundreds of millions of people to significantly higher risks of extreme heatwaves, drought, floods and poverty. The report was produced by the UN Environment Programme and a coalition of research organisations. It complements an earlier UN analysis showing the current Paris agreement pledges to cut emissions would still lead to a catastrophic 3-4°C rise.

“We’re in a deep hole – and we need to stop digging … fossil fuel production levels are higher than ever.”

We’re in a deep hole – and we need to stop digging,” said Måns Nilsson, executive director of the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), which was part of the analysis. “Despite more than two decades of climate policymaking, fossil fuel production levels are higher than ever.”

Action to reduce CO2 emission is important, but so is reducing fossil fuel production

Most action to tackle the climate crisis involves reducing emissions, but Inger Andersen, head of the UN Environment Programme, said a focus on fossil fuel production was long overdue. Most of the action pledges made by countries under the Paris deal do not even mention changes to production.

Take the UK – it commits to net zero emissions, but subsidizes fossil fuel production at home and abroad 

The UK is a “striking” example of this mismatch, said Cleo Verkuijl, at the SEI’s centre in Oxford, UK. It was the first major economy to commit to net zero emissions by 2050, she said, but also subsidizes fossil fuel production at home and abroad and intends to extract “every drop of oil and gas” from its North Sea fields. In recent years, the UK oil and gas industry has received £176m more annually in government support than it paid in taxes, the report said. The UK Oil and Gas Authority said in a statement: “Oil and gas will remain an important part of our energy mix for the foreseeable future, including under net zero scenarios. Maximizing the economic recovery from the UK remains vital to meet those energy demands as long as they exist, and to reduce reliance on imports.

UN Report backed by top climate officials Christiana Figueres and Nicholas Stern

The report’s warning was strongly backed by senior figures.

  • Ensuring a liveable planet for future generations means getting serious about phasing out coal, oil and gas,” said Christiana Figueres, at Mission 2020 and is the person who delivered the Paris agreement in 2015 as the UN’s top climate official. “Countries such as Costa Rica, Spain and New Zealand are already showing the way forward, with policies to constrain exploration and extraction – others must now follow their lead. There is no time to waste.”
  • Prof Nicholas Stern, at the London School of Economics, said: “This important report shows planned levels of coal, oil and gas production are dangerously out of step with the goals of the Paris agreement.”

UN Report cites Canada as one of the governments that is taking ‘some’ action — but it’s not enough

The report highlights the nations that are taking some action, including the closure of most coal mines in Spain and some in China, along with the end of new offshore oil and gas exploration licenses in New Zealand and some parts of the Arctic governed by Canada, the US and Norway.

UK Energy expert, Cleo Verkuijl, holds out hope for ‘gamechanger’ defeat of Trump in 2020

Verkuijl said a global agreement to phase out production would be ideal but is difficult at present with the US under President Donald Trump, as the country is due to withdraw from the Paris agreement. But she said many Democratic presidential candidates have promised to cut fossil fuel production by restricting extraction on public land, for example, or removing subsidies. She said such a candidate beating Trump in the 2020 election would be a “gamechanger”.

UN Report also urged government assistance for employees in fossil fuel industry to transition coming production reductions 

The report said it was crucial that workers in fossil fuel industries were helped into new employment as production ramped down. “Leaders need to [talk with] workers and their unions to plan a just transition away from fossil fuels,” said Sharan Burrow, head of the International Trade Union Confederation.

The analysis is based on the published national plans of eight key producers: Australia, Canada, Russia, US, China, India, Indonesia and Norway, which account for 60% of global fossil fuel production. The plans of other big producers, including Saudi Arabia and Iran, are not publicly available. The researchers assumed these nations would follow similar paths as the eight countries that were covered.

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The Production Gap 2019 Report

Chapter 4. Support for fossil fuel production in key producer countries

CANADA

Canada is the world’s sixth largest oil producer and fourth largest natural gas producer (IEA 2019a). In coal production, it ranks just outside the world’s top 10 (IEA 2019a). The fossil fuel sector currently generates about 8% of Canada’s GDP, though this has been in decline since 1997, when it generated 10%. Production levels, however, have risen (Hughes 2018). The government views fossil fuel exports as critical for Canada’s economic growththe current Prime Minister has stated that expanding fossil fuel export infrastructure is “of vital strategic interest to Canada (Prime Minister of Canada 2018). Canada has encouraged the production of oil and natural gas through several government measures, including tax incentives, regulatory reform, research and development support, and, most recently, direct public investment. For example:

  • Federal subsidies for fossil fuel production (including a 100% deduction for exploration expenditures) were approximately CAD 1.6 billion (USD 1.2 billion) per year from 2013 to 2015 (Touchette and Gass 2018). As they are linked to oil prices and exploration activities, a decline in both led to a significant drop in subsidies over the 2016–2018 period (Touchette and Gass 2018). While some incentive programs have ended, subsidy values are still expected to increase with oil prices.
  • Subsidies at the provincial level can also be significant. Oil, gas, and coal subsidies in Alberta, for example, totalled CAD 2 billion (USD 1.5 billion) in fiscal year 2017–2018, with the vast majority coming from royalty adjustment (Environmental Defence and Gass 2019).
  • In 2018, the national government purchased the Trans Mountain Pipeline for CAD 4.5 billion (USD 3.5 billion) and it has offered to indemnify the pipeline expansion project for a private buyer to enable increased oil sands production for international export markets (Department of Finance 2018).

Though Canada plans to address domestic emissions by putting in place a nation-wide carbon price, fossil fuel production is expected to grow progressively, largely driven by oil sands expansion. Canada’s Energy Future 2018 projects oil production to increase 60% from 2017 to 2040 (National Energy Board 2018). Natural gas production is also on track to increase 34% during that time (National Energy Board 2018). In contrast, as a founding member of the Powering Past Coal Alliance, Canada has committed to a coal power phase-out by 2030, accompanied by measures to support coal workers and communities (Environment and Climate Change Canada 2017). Thermal coal production is thus expected to decline by roughly 90% from 2017 to 2040 (National Energy Board 2018).

While Canada reported a 2% reduction in 2017 emissions relative to 2005 levels (Environment and Climate Change Canada 2019), its NDC target is to reduce territorial emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030 (Government of Canada 2017). Ongoing fossil fuel production could create challenges for meeting this goal, as upstream oil and gas production alone accounts for 27% of Canada’s territorial emissions (Environment and Climate Change Canada 2019). Furthermore, extraction-based CO2 emissions from fossil fuel exports nearly doubled from 2000 to 2015, and now exceed Canada’s domestic CO2 emissions from all sources (Environment and Climate Change Canada 2019; Lee 2018).

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