Climate changing CO2 emissions are set to surge by nearly 5 percent this year as the global economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
In the Global Energy Review 2021, IEA predicted that carbon dioxide emissions would rise to 33 billion tonnes this year, up 1.5 billion tonnes from 2020 reversing most of last year’s decline caused due to pandemic. It would reflect the single largest increase in emissions since 2010 and the second-largest increase in history.
“This is a dire warning that the economic recovery from the COVID crisis is currently anything but sustainable for our climate. Unless governments around the world move rapidly to start cutting emissions, we are likely to face an even worse situation in 2022,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said.
This year’s rise will likely be driven by a resurgence in coal use in the power sector, Mr. Birol added, which the report forecast to be particularly strong in Asia. The report comes at a time when policymakers are under pressure to deliver on promises made as part of the Paris Agreement.
Almost 200 countries ratified the Paris climate accord at COP21 in 2015, agreeing to limit the increase in the planet’s average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to cap the temperature rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The US President Joe Biden will hold a virtual summit for dozens of world leaders this week to discuss the issue ahead of global talks in Scotland later this year. In 2020, when power use dropped due to the COVID-19, energy-related CO2 emissions fell by 5.8 percent to 31.5 billion tonnes, after peaking in 2019 at 33.4 billion tonnes.
The IEA’s annual review analyzed the latest national data from around the world, economic growth trends and new energy projects that are set to come online.
Global energy demand is set to increase by 4.6 percent in 2021, led by developing economies, pushing it above 2019 levels, the report said. Demand for all fossil fuels is on course to grow this year, with both coal and gas set to rise above pre-pandemic marks.
The expected rise in coal use dwarves that of renewables by almost 60 percent, despite accelerating demand for solar, wind and hydropower. More than 80 percent of the projected growth in coal demand in 2021 is set to come from Asia, led by China. Coal use in the US and the European Union is also on course to increase but will remain well below pre-crisis levels, the IEA said.