The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the fragility of this fossil fuel dominance.
Restrictions in economic and social activity and travel triggered the biggest shock to global fossil fuel consumption in seven decades.
Oil prices plunged — to historic lows in some places —and countries reliant on oil revenues found themselves saddled with additional hardships in the midst of a health crisis.
Now, with unprecedented investment in rescue and recovery packages — it has been estimated that countries will invest USD 10–20 trillion from mid-2020 through the end of 2021 — governments are making decisions that may set the course of their economies for years to come.
Some are doubling down on fossil fuels, a path that carries large economic risks and disastrous environmental consequences.
Already, the extraction and burning of fossil fuels has contributed to air-pollution-related illnesses and deaths, intensifying extreme weather, and rising food and water insecurity worldwide.
Continued production of fossil fuels at current levels, let alone the increases envisioned by governments, is at odds with a climate-safe future.
Coal, oil, and gas account for over three-fourths of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including 90% of carbon dioxide emissions and roughly a third of methane emissions.
Last year’s Production Gap Report found countries planned to produce fossil fuels far in excess of the levels necessary to limit global warming to 1.5°C or “well below” 2°C, the temperature limits set out in the landmark Paris Agreement, which nearly all governments have now ratified.
One year later, the world has changed — but, so far, these plans have not. Limiting climate change impacts, and meeting Paris Agreement goals, requires that countries wind down fossil fuel production by 6% annually over the coming decade under a 1.5°C pathway and by 2% annually under a 2°C pathway.
As countries recover and rebuild, a key question becomes: will they return to their previous trajectories, with plans to collectively produce far more coal, oil, and gas than is consistent with climate goals?
Or will countries “build back better”, investing in clean energy and development pathways that enable them to reduce their dependence on coal, oil, and gas production and to meet their climate commitments?
This year’s special edition of the Production Gap Report focuses on the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for the production gap.
It considers how government responses are widening or narrowing the production gap, and provides policymakers with policy options to chart a just and equitable transition away from fossil fuels.