A strong China-led rebound from last year’s coronavirus restrictions pushed global energy-related CO2 emissions above historical levels towards the end of 2020, International Energy Agency (IEA) data showed Tuesday.
Worldwide energy-related emissions fell 5.8% – or nearly 2 billion tonnes of CO2e – year-on-year, but by December GHG output had recovered and stood 2% above Dec. 2019 levels, the IEA said.
“The rebound in global emissions toward the end of last year is a stark warning that not enough is being done to accelerate clean energy transitions worldwide,” Fatih Birol, IEA executive director, said in a statement.
“If governments don’t move quickly with the right energy policies, this could put at risk the world’s historic opportunity to make 2019 the definite peak in emissions,” he added.
According to the IEA, China’s emissions increased by 0.8%, or 75 MtCO2e, for the year as a whole, after YoY emissions went back to a growing trend as soon as April.
Meanwhile, India saw rising YoY carbon output in the last four months of the year. Emissions in the US and EU remained below 2019 levels throughout 2020, although their December output approached the previous year’s levels.
“If current expectations for a global economic rebound this year are confirmed – and in the absence of major policy changes in the world’s largest economies – global emissions are likely to increase in 2021,” said Birol.
The agency expressed some hope that ambitious 2050 climate pledges from a number of large economies over the past year could help push the world onto a lower-emissions path.
The IEA report came just days after a UN study showed that the 75 countries that have submitted updated climate pledges so far will only manage combined reductions of less than 1% by 2030 compared to 2010 levels.
More than half of last year’s emissions reductions came from a decline in transport-sector oil consumption from road and air transport.
A rebound in road transport in major developing nations was the main driver in the rebounding emissions towards the end of 2020, with India and Brazil ending the year well above 2019 levels.
China was the only nation to bring aviation activity close to previous years’ levels by the end of 2020.
However, as vaccination rates increase and activity levels return towards normal in developed countries as well, those emissions are set to come back strongly this year.
Power sector emissions fell 3.3% in 2020, or 450 Mt, amid a drop in electricity demand and increased use of wind and solar power.
“What happens to energy demand and emissions in 2021 and beyond will depend on how much emphasis governments put on clean energy transitions in their efforts to boost their economies in the coming months. Avoiding a rebound in emissions requires rapid structural changes in how we use and produce energy,” the IEA said.
By Stian Reklev – email@example.com