IEA warns 2021 set for major carbon emissions increase

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Global carbon dioxide emissions facing second biggest annual rise ever.

The International Energy Agency is projecting that CO2 emissions will increase by almost 5% this year to 33 billion tonnes. The projection is based on national data from around the world and real-time analysis of growth trends and energy projects presently coming online. Electricity will make up three quarters of the increase.

In total, global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are on course to surge by 1.5 billion tonnes in 2021. The only year in which emissions previously rose by so much was 2010, as a result of a carbon-intensive recovery from the global financial crisis. 2021 is likely to avoid exceeding that rise only because aviation remains supressed.

Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, said: “This is a dire warning that the economic recovery from the Covid crisis is currently anything but sustainable for our climate. Unless governments around the world move rapidly to start cutting emissions, we are likely to face an even worse situation in 2022.”

Global energy demand will increase by 4.6% this year, with emerging markets and developing economies leading the growth. Higher coal demand is cited as a big factor but it is not the only fossil fuel set to rise significantly. Gas demand will exceed its 2019 levels while oil is also rebounding strongly, albeit still below its 2019 peak because the aviation sector has not recovered.

The expected rise in coal-use this year will reverse the trend last year for more renewables than coal capacity added to networks. Coal energy growth will exceed renewables growth by almost 60% this year despite accelerating demand for renewables. More than 80% of the projected growth in coal demand in 2021 is set to come from Asia.

In better news, the IEA reports that electricity generation from renewables will continue to grow, rising by 8% in 2021. The biggest contribution to that growth comes from solar and wind, which are on track for their largest annual rise in history.

Renewables will provide 30% of all electricity generation worldwide in 2021, up from less than 27% in 2019. China is expected to account for almost half of the global increase in electricity generation from renewables, followed by the United States, the European Union and India.

The projections have been set out in the Global Energy Review, the IEA’s annual update on the latest trends in world energy and CO2 emissions.

Click here to read the IEA Global Energy Review 2021.