Easier Said Than Done?

– Shohini Ghosh

2015 was a landmark year as countries signed the infamous Paris Agreement – an ambitious treaty on climate change which aimed to limit the rise of global temperature to 1.5 °C to 2 °C. Countries actively pledged to make changes and some even formulated policies keeping in mind the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The accord sounded like it succeeded in reaching what it aimed for until critics started observing that none of the major industrial countries were actually implementing those policies. There is also little scientific evidence which would highlight that the goals of the Paris Agreement are being met.

One such report that analyses the discrepancy between the Paris Agreement and what the countries are actually up to, is the report launched by The UN Environment Program in 2021 (first launched in 2019) – The Production Gap Report 2021.

The Problem

Fossil fuels are a major source of global warming once burnt. By burning fossil fuels in large amounts, countries set themselves up for devastating climate impacts like floods, hurricanes, wildfires and the like. The Production Gap Report 2021 analysed the production of fossil fuels in major countries, their impact on the climate and discussed the possible solutions.

Image Source: Getty Images

The report mentioned that despite knowing the harmful effects of the production of fossil fuels, G20 countries have spent more money on fossil fuel production than in the production of clean energy. Although the same countries hail net-zero emission targets and flaunt ambitious climate targets that are in line with the Paris Agreement, they have put no full stop in the production of fossil fuels. Some countries have not even acknowledged the need to reduce the production of fossil fuels in order to reach the goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C.

Rather, the world’s governments plan to produce more than twice the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than would be healthy. In 2030, governments’ production plans and projections would lead to around 240% more coal, 57% more oil, and 71% more gas.

This report provides country profiles for Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It highlights the countries’ national climate goals, available information on government views, projections, and support for fossil fuel production; and policies that would manage or reduce the production of the same.

Back home in India, there will be an increase greater than 5% in the production of coal, oil and gas as compared to 2019 production, according to the report. This should alert the country because if this happens, the aim of achieving the goal of the Paris Agreement will fly out the window.  

The Solution

It is established that the rate at which countries are producing and planning to produce fossil fuels will not enable them to reach the goal of limiting the rise in global temperature set by the Paris Agreement. The report identifies the need to bridge the gap between the production of fossil fuels and clean energy. Keeping this in mind, the report offers some solutions.

Image Source: UNEP

To begin with, the countries must be transparent about their production, procedures and future plans. It has been noted that the information passed down by governments is usually incomplete and scattered. A comprehensive information would not only hold the government accountable but specialists in the area will be better able to offer solutions.

The strongest solution to cutting fossil fuel production is by discouraging it all together. This can happen by putting restrictions on the exploration and extraction of fossil fuels or by withdrawing subsidies. Charging high prices for such activities can reduce the production of the same, significantly.

The report also mentions that by leveraging international support, a more equitable and global wind-down of fossil fuel production is possible.

Having stated the solutions, it is obvious that no one solution can provide the desired effect, rather an amalgamation of these solutions is what will guarantee recovery and the path towards betterment. 

Final Thoughts

The Production Gap Report 2021 is a landmark report as it calls out countries and sheds light on their hypocrisy. It is easier to formulate policies and wave the flag of pledges and a clean environment but the game changes on ground when these have to be implemented. The report urges everyone to question their government, hold them accountable and push forward for some real, doable, sustainable action. More such reports are needed to form a comprehensive picture of how the climate in future will look like. For now, The Production Gap Report 2021 must be analysed at a national level and its recommendations must be adopted for a better and healthier future.

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