Report: Global fossil fuel emissions reach record high despite increase in reduction efforts

Today (5 December) at COP28, the Global Carbon Project (GCP) has released its annual analysis of global carbon cycle trends, including a full-year projection for 2023.

The report anticipates a 1.1% increase in global fossil CO2 emissions in 2023, surpassing the average annual growth rate of 0.5% observed over the past decade.

Presently, global fossil CO2 emissions stand at 6% above the levels recorded in 2015, the year when the Paris Agreement was negotiated.

The Centre for International Climate Research (CICERO)’s senior researcher Glen Peters said: “We continually see record growth in clean energy, but we have failed to put sufficient controls on the growth of fossil fuels and therefore CO2 emissions just keep rising.”

Earlier this year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) projected that renewables and nuclear energy will “dominate” the growth of global electricity production in the next three years, together accounting for more than 90% of additional global demand.

Moreover, at the World Leaders Summit at COP28 last week, more than 100 countries have pledged to triple global renewable capacity and doubling energy efficiency by 2030.

However, the report highlights that while renewable energy production has surged worldwide, the failure to address fossil fuel usage has led to an increase in global carbon emissions. Here, edie summarises all the key highlights from the Global Carbon Budget.

Coal reigns supreme: China and India propel record highs

Coal, a major driver of carbon emissions, has seen an unexpected resurgence, fuelled by China and India.

The report predicts a 1.1% rise in emissions linked to coal, exceeding past highs even though there have been reductions in coal usage noted in the US and the EU.

In China, despite strides in renewable energy, emissions weren’t effectively controlled due to a spike in coal-powered generation driven by increased electricity needs, worsened by reduced hydropower output during a drought, as detailed in the report.

Similarly, India is anticipated to experience an 8.2% surge in emissions primarily due to a sharp increase in coal demand outpacing the growth in renewable capacity.

Oil and gas trends: Aviation and ground transportation

The oil sector is anticipated to witness a 1.5% rise in emissions, attributed mainly to increased international aviation and ground transportation in China.

Conversely, natural gas emissions have witnessed a halt in their decade-long growth trend since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, projecting a 0.5% increase. This shift follows a consistent 2% yearly growth, emphasising a potential turning point in gas consumption trends.

International Aviation and Shipping: A combined growth of concern

International aviation and shipping combined are set to spike by 11.9% in 2023. The aviation sector is rebounding swiftly from pandemic lows, expected to soar by 28%, while shipping is on a steadier rise with a projected 1% increase.

Declining fossil fuel carbon emissions in the US and EU

According to the report, the US and the EU are showing declines in fossil CO2 emissions. The US is expected to witness a 3% decrease, primarily attributed to coal retirements and increased natural gas usage.

Moreover, the US has joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA) at COP28, committing to not develop any more new unabated coal plants and phasing out existing coal plants.

The EU, driven by increased renewables and energy crises, is projected to see a 7.4% drop in emissions.

Land-use change and overall CO2 emissions

The report highlights that while CO2 emissions from land-use changes continue a downward trend, uncertainties persist.

The net emissions from land-use changes have shown a small decline over the past two decades, mainly due to forest regrowth, contributing to the global carbon budget.

Net-zero imperative: Urgent calls for action

With atmospheric CO2 concentrations reaching alarming levels—projected to grow to 51% above pre-industrial levels—experts emphasise the urgency of curbing emissions to prevent further global warming.

The emerging El Niño event is predicted to impact CO2 sinks, leading to higher atmospheric CO2 growth rates in 2024.

Despite widespread commitments to achieve net-zero emissions, the stark reality remains that global emissions continue to rise.

CICERO’s director Kristin Halvorsen said: “The continued growth of global emissions shows clearly that it is more urgent than ever to act if we want to have the possibility to reach the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to well below 2C.”

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