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UN warns global fossil fuel output targets well above climate goals

Highlights

Global production plans 'dangerously out of sync' with climate goals

Fossil fuel production set to be more than double 1.5 degrees limit

'Production gap' largely unchanged since 2019

The world's governments plan to produce more than twice the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C, the United Nations said Oct. 20 in a report detailing a persistent "production gap" between polices and key climate goals.

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Based on an assessment of national energy plans and projections, the UN said the world will produce around 110% more fossil fuels in 2030 than needed to limit warming to 1.5 C and 45% more than is consistent with limiting warming to 2 C.

As a result global coal, oil, and gas production and demand would have to start declining "immediately" to hit the 1.5 C target with just coal and oil needing to fall from today to hit the 2 C target, the UN concluded in its report.

Governments are collectively projecting an increase in oil and gas production, and only a modest decrease in coal production, over the next two decades, which would lead to 240% more coal, 57% more oil, and 71% more gas than needed to limit global warming to 1.5 C, it concluded.

"Current government plans and outlooks for fossil fuel production would take the world in the opposite direction, creating an ever-widening production gap that is vastly inconsistent with the Paris Agreement's goals," the UN said, noting that the global production gap has remained largely unchanged since its first analysis in 2019.

The report echoes a similar conclusion to the International Energy Agency's ground-breaking Net Zero 2050 report in May which called for the immediate halt of all new fossil fuel projects in order to achieve a pathway to net-zero emissions globally by 2050.

The UN report also comes a week after the IEA said global demand for fossil fuels could peak by 2025 if the world's current climate pledges are fully met, although oil demand would remain at three-quarters of current levels by 2050, missing climate targets by a wide margin.

A year ago, the IEA predicted oil demand would flat-line above 100 million b/d rather than peak in the coming two decades, forecasting consumption would rise from 97.9 million b/d in 2019 to 104.1 million b/d in 2040.

S&P Global Platts Analytics sees global oil demand peaking near 2040 at around 111 million b/d before slipping to 108 million b/d in 2050 under a "most likely" scenario, some 3 million b/d lower than pre-pandemic forecasts.

The UN's report comes ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference to be held in Glasgow, Scotland on Nov. 1-12, where governments aim to work on collective action to curb greenhouse gas emissions.