Global carbon dioxide emissions will hit a record high this year, in spite of a drop in China’s emissions, as the world increased its coal use and economic activity continued to pick up post-coronavirus.
Carbon dioxide emissions from energy will rise 1 per cent to reach 37.5bn tonnes in 2022 — with the biggest increases coming from India and the US, according to new data from the Global Carbon Project, a coalition of international climate science bodies.
The sudden drop in emissions in China, the world’s biggest polluter, will be more than offset by the surging emissions in the rest of the world.
If global emissions continue at today’s levels, the remaining carbon budget to limit warming below the 1.5C ideal under the Paris climate accord would be used up in just nine years, according to the report. Already global temperatures have risen at least 1.1C in the industrial era.
As countries gather in Sharm el-Sheikh this week for the COP27 UN climate talks, the backdrop of rising emissions highlights the widening gap between the goals of the 2015 Paris agreement and what is happening in the real world.
“CO₂ emissions are about 5 per cent higher than they were in 2015,” said Glen Peters, one of the authors of the report, and a research director at Cicero. Although many Covid-related stimulus packages were supposed to set the world on a low-emissions path, the opposite seemed to have happened, he said.
“We are nowhere near on track [for reaching the goals of Paris climate accord]. We are heading in the wrong direction.”
In 2022, China’s zero-Covid policy and related lockdowns meant that the country — the world’s biggest coal consumer — had a 0.9 per cent drop in emissions.
This is the first decline in China’s emissions since 2016, the data from the Global Carbon Project show.
It was lower Chinese consumption of oil, gas and cement that all helped reduce the country’s emissions, while its coal use was flat.
In the EU, an increase in coal consumption this year was partly offset by a drop in gas use after Russia restricted supplies. The bloc countries’ carbon emissions are forecast to fall 0.8 per cent this year.
By contrast, India and the US both experienced rising emissions this year, as economic activity — and the aviation sector — recovered strongly following the pandemic restrictions of the previous year.
To reach the Paris climate accord goal to make best efforts to limit global warming to 1.5C will require drastic and immediate emission cuts.
“Reaching net zero emissions by 2050 . . . would require a decrease in total emissions of about 1.4bn tonnes of CO₂ each year,” said Corinne Le Quéré, professor of climate change at the University of East Anglia.
This is comparable to the fall in 2020 as a result of the concerted government efforts globally to tackle the pandemic, she added.
The data also contained a sliver of good news: global emissions from land use change have declined slightly over the past two decades, albeit with large uncertainties.
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