IEA: Global carbon emissions set to rise in 2018, breaking five-year decline

The amount of carbon emitted by the world's most economically advanced nations is set to rise before the end of 2018, bucking a five-year decline in emissions, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned.

Developed nations are relying on gas and oil - rather than renewables - as the coal phase-out continues, the IEA has warned

Developed nations are relying on gas and oil - rather than renewables - as the coal phase-out continues, the IEA has warned

The body’s most up-to-date energy data, unveiled on Wednesday (5 December) shows that energy-related carbon emissions across the US, EU and Asia Pacific regions have risen year-on-year due to higher gas and oil use increasing at a faster rate than the shift away from coal.

Overall, the IEA forecasts that the total carbon footprint of these three economies will have increased by 0.5% as a result of these trends.

If this prediction comes to fruition, it will mark the first time since 2013 that carbon emissions from these nations have risen. Between 2013 and 2018, energy-related CO2 emissions from advanced economies fell by 3% or 400 million tonnes, according to the IEA.

While the IEA praised these economies for decoupling economic growth from emissions to some extent, with a 2.4% rise in GDP occurring at the same time as the 0.5% rise in emissions, it noted that efforts were still not strong enough to reach the aims of the Paris Agreement.

For this to happen, the IEA has argued that global energy-related emissions will need to peak almost immediately, before entering into a “steep” decline. The body’s Sustainable Development Scenario, which is aligned with a 2C trajectory, notably requires a 1% drop in global carbon emissions each year to 2025.

“Our data shows that despite the strong growth in solar PV and wind, emissions have started to rise again in advanced economies, highlighting the need for deploying all technologies and energy efficiency,” the IEA’s executive director Faith Birol said.

“Increasing efforts are needed to encourage even more renewables, greater energy efficiency, more nuclear and more innovation for technologies such as carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) and hydrogen. This turnaround should be another warning to governments as they meet in Katowice this week.”

The global picture

Away from developed economies, the IEA has also forecast an upturn in total CO2 emissions from the world’s mid to low-income nations.

While the body will not confirm this prediction until it publishes its annual outlook next March, it has stated that “all indications” are currently pointing to year-on-year emissions growth globally, in line with the expansion of the global economy, which is now 3.7% bigger than it was in 2017.

This economic growth has led to an increase in both oil demand and gas use globally since the start of 2018, according to the IEA, with numerous new coal power plants coming online across the world since January.

The predictions come after the IEA recorded a 1.6% increase in global carbon emissions in 2017, which ended a three-year emissions plateau.

Christian Aid has dubbed the IEA’s findings a “final wake-up call” for any world leaders who “thought they could hit the snooze button” following the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s landmark global warming report in October.

Indeed, the publication of the body’s predictions come shortly after the UN made claims that the main greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change have all reached record levels.

“All the warm words spoken at the UN climate summit in Poland won’t help prevent climate change - the climate does not respond to lofty rhetoric, it responds to carbon dioxide emission reductions,” Christian Aid’s international climate lead Mohamed Adow said.

“With droughts, heatwaves, floods and storms causing mayhem across the world in 2018 the fact emissions are actually increasing this year shows the greater urgency that governments need to show.”

Sarah George


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