Coal and gas rebound puts carbon emissions on track for 2021 soaring

The world is on track to record the second highest increase in energy-related carbon emissions in 2021, due to a resurgence in coal use in Asia, according to the latest forecast from the International Energy Agency. energy.

Global energy-related CO2 emissions could climb 1.5 billion tonnes to 33 billion tonnes this year, the largest annual increase since 2010, the IEA said on Tuesday. This would reverse 80% of the decline seen in 2020, when the pandemic depressed demand, with emissions rebounding just below the 2019 peak.

A rebound in coal used to generate electricity in China is expected to fuel much of this year’s increase, the IEA said.

“This is a terrible warning that the economic recovery from the Covid crisis is currently anything but sustainable for our climate,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA. He called on world leaders to commit to “clear and immediate action” at the climate summit hosted by the United States this week.

The IEA warned in March that energy-related carbon emissions were higher in December than they had been the same month in 2019, as polluting activity rebounded after coronavirus lockdowns – a finding that Birol says must serve as a “stern warning” to policymakers policies.

Global carbon emissions were almost 6% lower in 2020 compared to the previous year, but this trend has started to reverse quickly as economies reopen.

On Tuesday, the IEA predicted that the use of all fossil fuels would increase “considerably” in 2021, with coal and gas likely to be more in demand in 2021 than in 2019. Overall, demand for energy is expected to increase by 4.6. percent in 2021 – down from 4 percent in 2020 – driven by emerging markets.

Demand for coal is expected to grow 4.5% this year and approach its 2014 peak, largely due to fuel use in Asia, and China in particular, according to the IEA findings. The forecasts were based on national data and real-time analysis of trends in economic growth and developing energy projects.

Coal use in the United States and the EU was also set to increase, although it will likely remain below coronavirus crisis levels, the IEA said.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said on Monday that a “top priority” should be to ensure that no new coal-fired power plants are built and that coal is completely phased out in all countries by 2040. Without urgent action, the world will not meet the Paris Agreement target of limiting warming to 1.5 ° C above pre-industrial levels, he said. .

Speaking alongside Guterres, the secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization, Petteri Taalas, said there was already a “20% chance” that the world would warm by 1.5 ° C in the “five coming years on a temporary basis ”.

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“Of course we will see years when we strike [1.5C] on a temporary basis, ”he said.

The expected increase in fossil fuel use in 2021 would occur even with record annual increases in the amounts of energy produced by both solar and wind, the IEA said on Tuesday. Renewable energy sources are expected to produce around a third of the world’s total electricity this year.

Oil would likely remain below its 2019 high as the aviation sector has yet to rebound to pre-pandemic levels, the IEA said.

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