Global carbon dioxide emissions are forecast to surge by 1.5-billion tonnes in 2021 to 33-billion tonnes, setting the second biggest annual rise in history. This will reverse most of last year’s emissions decline caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. A new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) released today stated.
The surge is caused by the rise in electricity demand and will be second only to the massive rebound 10 years ago after the financial crisis. This will put climate hopes out of reach unless governments act quickly, IEA warned.
Coal demand is forecast to grow by 4.5% this year with most demand coming from Asia, China and the US. The expected rise in coal use “dwarfs that of renewables” by almost 60%, despite accelerating demand for renewables. Coal’s rebound causes particular concern because it comes despite plunging prices for renewable energy, which is now cheaper than coal.
IEA executive director Fatih Birol said: “This is a dire warning that the economic recovery from the Covid crisis is currently anything but sustainable for our climate.
The US president, Joe Biden, is convening a climate summit this week, with the leaders of 40 countries expected to attend, at which he will urge countries to come forward with strong commitments on cutting emissions this decade.
“Unless governments around the world move rapidly to start cutting emissions, we are likely to face an even worse situation in 2022. The Leaders Summit on Climate hosted by US President Joe Biden this week is a critical moment to commit to clear and immediate action ahead of COP26 in Glasgow,” Birol added.
Emissions plunged by a record 7% globally last year, owing to the lockdowns that followed the Covid-19 outbreak. But by the end of the year, they were already rebounding, and on track to exceed 2019 levels in some areas.
Electricity production from renewables is set to rise by over 8% in 2021, accounting for more than half of the increase in overall electricity supply worldwide.
“If governments take clear and imminent action, with the amount of cheap clean energy technologies we have, we can transform this disappointment to some good outcomes,” IEA executive director Fatih Birol said.
China is planning to build scores of coal-fired power stations, despite pledging last year to reach net zero emissions by 2060. The country’s five-year economic plan, set out by Beijing last month, contained little detail on curbing emissions before 2030. However, after a surprise visit to Shanghai by the US climate envoy, John Kerry, the US and China pledged cooperation on greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade.