Climate goals need 6pc yearly fossil fuel cuts: UN

4 December, 2020 12:00 AM printer

PARIS: Oil, gas and coal production must fall six percent a year in order to limit catastrophic global warming, the United Nations warned Wednesday, even as high-polluting nations bank on fossil fuels to drive their Covid-19 recoveries.

The UN's annual Production Gap assessment measures the difference between the Paris Agreement climate goals and nations' planned production of fossil fuels, reports AFP.

Wednesday's edition found that despite this year's dip in production due to the pandemic, that gap remains large: countries plan a two-percent annual increase through 2030.

This is equivalent to more than double the fossil fuel production that would be consistent with the Paris deal's more ambitious goal of limiting warming to 1.5C (2.7 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

The assessment comes at a critical juncture in humanity's battle to stave off the worst effects of climate change, with several major polluters including China and Japan having pledged to reach net-zero emissions within decades.

But the report authors stressed that emissions need lowering immediately, and that the Covid-19 pandemic offered governments a golden opportunity to rebuild their economies without relying on polluting fuels.

"The research is abundantly clear that we face severe climate disruption if countries continue to produce fossil fuels at current levels, let alone at their planned increases," said Michael Lazarus, lead author and director of the Stockholm Environment Institute's US Center.

"The research is similarly clear on the solution: government policies that decrease both the demand and supply for fossil fuels and support communities currently dependent on them."

The 2015 Paris accord saw nations promise to limit warming to "well below" 2C through sweeping emissions cuts.

With just over 1C of warming so far, extreme weather events such as wildfires and tropical storms have been rendered more powerful and frequent by rising temperatures.

The UN calculates that to keep the 1.5C goal within reach, nations need to reduce emissions by more than 7.5 percent every year this decade.