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Fossil fuel production must be cut in half to control global warming: study

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Plans for fossil fuel production around the world are twice the level necessary to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to a report released Wednesday by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

The projected increases include 240 percent more coal, 57 percent more oil and 71 percent more gas in 2030 than would be necessary to keep warming at or below 1.5 degrees, according to UNEP.

Governments also have directed more new money to fossil fuel production than to renewable energy since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, to the tune of more than $300 billion.

The UNEP report analyzes planned production by 15 countries: the U.S., China, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

The governments in question are projected to collectively increase production of both gas and oil with coal production falling only slightly.

In recent years, Group of 20 countries and major multilateral development banks have scaled back their international public finance for fossil fuel production.

Lucile Dufour, senior policy adviser at the International Institute for Sustainable Development, called this decline “encouraging” but added that “these changes need to be followed by concrete and ambitious fossil fuel exclusion policies to limit global warming.”

The report comes as the international COP26 climate summit is set to begin in Glasgow on Oct. 31. Officials such as U.S. climate envoy John Kerry have framed the summit as one of the international community’s last big opportunities to develop strategies for reducing catastrophic warming.

“The devastating impacts of climate change are here for all to see. There is still time to limit long-term warming to 1.5°C, but this window of opportunity is rapidly closing,” Inger Andersen, UNEP’s executive director, said in a statement. “At COP26 and beyond, the world’s governments must step up, taking rapid and immediate steps to close the fossil fuel production gap and ensure a just and equitable transition. This is what climate ambition looks like.”

UNEP has released its annual Production Gap Report, which measures the difference between fossil fuel production plans and those required to meet obligations under the Paris climate agreement, since 2019.

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