Significant “Production Gap” between Global Climate Goals and Projected Fossil Fuel Production

by Vins
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A United Nations report released in November 2019 determined that the international community will fail to curb planet-heating emissions and prevent climate catastrophe, based on projections for fossil fuel production over the next decade, Jessica Corbett reported for Common Dreams.

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) report, “The Production Gap,”  stated: “Governments are planning to produce about 50% more fossil fuels by 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.”

Noting that the world’s energy supply is “dominated by coal, oil and gas, driving emission levels that are inconsistent with climate goals,” Inger Anderson, UNEP’s executive director, explained that 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” (p. 5).

The UNEP report found that the production gap is “already more significant” than the global emission gap, “due to minimal policy restriction on the production of fossil fuels.”

Almost every country is starting to reform its policy laws—except the United States. In November 2019, the Trump administration notified the United Nations that it would withdraw the US from the historic 2015 Paris climate agreement. As Democracy Now! reported, “The United States—the world’s largest historic greenhouse gas emitter—will become the only country outside the accord.”

By contrast, more than sixty nations have already committed to updating their emission reduction plans and pledges to the Paris Agreement by 2020. Most of the policy interventions focus on fossil fuel consumption.

However, the UNEP report cast doubt the efficacy of these efforts. “Despite more than two decades of climate policy making, fossil fuel production levels are higher than ever,” said Måns Nilsson, the executive director of the Stockholm Environment Institute, which collaborated on the UNEP report. “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.”

UNEP’s first-ever report on the production gap has received surprisingly little corporate news coverage. In November 2019, for example, the New York Times covered the UNEP report on the emissions gap and its “bleak” findings, but the Times’s coverage did not mention UNEP’s related production gap report. The Huffington Post did run a substantive article on the UNEP production gap report, as part of the HuffPost’s “Climate Desk” collaboration with Mother Jones.

Source: Jessica Corbett, “Projected Fossil Fuel Production ‘Dangerously Out of Step’ With Global Climate Goals, UN Report Reveals,” Common Dreams, November 20, 2019,

Student Researcher: Elmer Hernandez (Sonoma State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Peter Phillips (Sonoma State University)