The newly-published Production Gap Report 2019, the first of its kind, aims to assess the difference between current government plans for fossil fuel production and the levels that would be necessary to achieve the 1.5C and 2C limits on global temperature increases proposed by the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
Looking at the government plans fo ten fossil fuel-producing countries, the Production Gap Report has exposed a discrepancy between governments' plans to reduce emissions with the amount of fossil fuel they were planning for their countries to produce. The countries focused on in the report are the top seven fossil fuel producers - China, the USA, Russia, India, Australia, Indonesia and Canada, along with three fossil fuel producing countries with strongly stated ambitions for a low carbon future - Norway, Germany and the UK.
Governments around the world have considerable power to steer fossil fuel production. They control permits for fossil fuel exploration and production, and support the fossil fuel industry through direct investments, research and development funding, tax expenditures, and assumed liability and risk.
According to the findings of the report, the collective governments have plans in place to produce around 50% more fossil fuels by 2030 than would be consistent with limiting temperature increases to 2C and 120% more than would be consistent with limiting temperature increases to 1.5C of warming. Their collective planned fossil fuel production is also at a level that exceeds levels consistent with their stated ambitions to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, as contained in their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) .
There are some positives. The report has identified that some other countries are already adopting 'supply side' measures to limit fossil fuel production. The governments of Belize, Costa Rica, Denmark and New Zealand have all imposed total bans or moratoria on oil and gas production, and Germany and Spain are phasing out coal production. But to be effective, the report says, these bans and restrictions need to be applied globally.
It is essential, the report says, that countries work together to move away from fossil fuel production and that international cooperation could send clear signals to policymakers, consumers and investors that the world is moving towards a low-carbon future.
It suggests that countries that have already begun to wind down fossil fuel production can help other countries learn from their experiences. Big financial institutions also have power in this. They have the ability to speed up the transition by shifting financial support away from fossil fuel production and towards low-carbon solutions.
So, the report concludes the tools are there. But effective, collective action by governments and institutions across the world is still lacking. This is a situation we need to change.