Climate Change

09 Mar 2022

Global Energy-Related Carbon Emissions Reach Highest Level Yet in 2021, IEA Says

09 Mar 2022  by   

A rise in economic activity in China led to a greater demand for energy, which in turn resulted in higher emissions. AFP

Global energy-related carbon emissions rose 6 per cent in 2021 to reach their highest level yet as coal use increased amid a rise in economic activity, a new report said.

Emissions rose to 36.3 billion tonnes last year, offsetting most of the previous year’s coronavirus pandemic-induced decline, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said.

Rising natural gas prices at a time of surging energy demand led to increased use of coal although renewables registered the highest growth.

"The numbers make clear that the global economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis has not been the sustainable recovery that IEA executive director Fatih Birol called for during the early stages of the pandemic in 2020," the agency said in a statement.

"The world must now ensure that the global rebound in emissions in 2021 was a one-off – and that an accelerated energy transition contributes to global energy security and lower energy prices for consumers."

Coal accounted for 40 per cent of the carbon dioxide emissions last year, reaching an all-time high of 15.3 billion tonnes. Emissions from natural gas rebounded to pre-pandemic levels to 7.5 billion tonnes, while carbon dioxide emissions from oil were well below the 2019 level as transport sector activity remained soft.

The rise in emissions was partly the result of a 10 per cent growth in power demand, which outstripped the country's economic growth.

Meanwhile, emissions in India too recovered strongly last year to reach pre-pandemic levels, fuelled by rising coal use, the IEA said.

"Coal-fired generation reached an all-time high in India, jumping 13 per cent above its 2020 level. This was partly because the growth of renewables slowed to one-third of the average rate seen over the previous five years."

Carbon emissions in the US were 4 per cent below the pre-pandemic levels, while in the EU they were 2.4 per cent lower.

Even as emissions touched a record level, 2021 also saw renewables-based generation reaching an all-time high. Nearly 8 000 terawatt-hours (TWh) were generated through renewables last year with output from wind and solar PV increasing by 270 TWh and 170 TWh, respectively.


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