November 20, 2019

UN-backed report shows why a just transition from fossil fuels is extremely urgent

JOHANNESBURG, 20th November 2019 – Leading research organizations and the UN have today released a new report. The report titled Production Gap outlines how current plans for fossil fuel production in many countries, including South Africa, are not aligned with the Paris climate agreement goal of keeping global temperatures from rising above 1.5°C.

The Production Gap report highlights several countries that have led the way in demonstrating that a just transition from oil, gas and coal is possible. The governments of Belize, Costa Rica, Denmark, France, and New Zealand, for instance, have set limits on the exploration and future extraction of oil and gas. 

Likewise, Germany and Spain are phasing out coal extraction, and working with workers and communities to plan for an economic future without coal mining. These actions represent a growing momentum to limit the fossil fuel supply for climate and related sustainable development reasons.

This is a wake-up call for countries like South Africa which is ranked thirteenth among the twenty-seven countries that produce the coal, oil, and gas that ultimately lead to 90% of global fossil fuel carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. South Africa, has to accelerate its transition away from coal. Alternatives are now more abundant, with wind or solar technologies currently being the least expensive option for adding new power-generating capacity. Combined with battery storage, they are poised to outcompete even existing gas and coal in most of the world by 2030. The risk for South Africa of not transitioning to a low carbon economy has been calculated at a potential R2 trillion.

The transition from coal has always been heavily countered with the fear of loss of jobs and limited economic opportunities. 

“Contrary to popular belief, the move to a low-carbon economy comes with many job opportunities. The International Labour Organization estimates that globally 24 million jobs could be created through changes in energy production and use that can limit warming to 2°C. At the same time, six million jobs will be lost, including two million in the mining and extraction of fossil fuels. A careful and inclusive plan for a just transition to renewable energy should, therefore, ensure that not only are more jobs created as compared to those that will be lost but that current ownership models are challenged, “ said Glen-Tyler Davies, the South Africa lead. 

Coal, oil, and natural gas remain the world’s dominant sources of energy, accounting for 81% of total primary energy supply. These fuels are, by far, the largest contributor to global climate change, accounting for over 75% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and close to 90% of all CO2 emissions. 

Scaling down fossil fuel production provides countries such as South Africa with many potential benefits, including supporting global action to achieve climate goals; reducing the risk of stranding assets and communities; and decreasing other adverse social, environmental, and economic impacts.


For more information on the report and its findings contact:

Robert Magori (Africa Communications Manager, 

For interviews, please contact: 

Landry Ninteretse (Regional Team Leader,, or 

Glen Tyler-Davies (South Africa Lead,, 

More about the Production Gap Report

The report was produced by leading research organizations, including the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), International Institute for Sustainable Development, Overseas Development Institute, CICERO Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research, Climate Analytics, and UNEP. Over fifty researchers contributed to the analysis and review, spanning numerous universities and additional research organizations.

This is the first time a UN backed report has explicitly, primarily, and directly addressed the production of fossil fuels as a key driver of climate change – and the implications for policy-making. 

According to this report, governments are planning to produce about 50% more fossil fuels by 2030 than would be consistent with a 2°C pathway and 120% more than would be consistent with a 1.5°C pathway.

By 2030, countries plan to produce 150% (5.2 billion tonnes) more coal than would be consistent with a 2°C pathway, and 280% (6.4 billion tonnes) more than would be consistent with a 1.5°C pathway. Oil and gas are also on track to exceed carbon budgets, as countries continue to invest in fossil fuel infrastructure that “locks in” oil and gas use. The effects of this lock-in widen the production gap over time until countries are producing 43% (36 million barrels per day) more oil and 47% (1,800 billion cubic meters) more gas by 2040 than would be consistent with a 2°C pathway.

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The number 350 means climate safety: to preserve a liveable planet, scientists tell us we must reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from its current level of 400 parts per million and rising, to below 350 ppm.

Climate change will hit Africa hardest so this fight is about climate justice. Many of the poorest Africans, women and children are already facing more drought, floods and extreme weather that threaten their livelihoods and push food prices up. The fact is climate change is going to affect all of us.

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