Global greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels are rising again this year – albeit at a slower pace, it was announced on Wednesday.
New analysis from the International Energy Agency (IEA), an intergovernmental group that tracks global energy use, found that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from burning oil, gas and coal are projected to rise by almost 300 million tonnes in 2022 compared to 2021. The emissions increase is about the same as 80 new coal-fired power plants.
The pace at which emissions are rising has slowed compared to last year, however, jumping less than 1 per cent – much less than the nearly 4 per cent increase last year.
The analysis came amid fears that emissions reductions could be put on the back-burner as countries face the ripple effects of rising inflation and the war in Ukraine.
“The global energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted a scramble by many countries to use other energy sources to replace the natural gas supplies that Russia has withheld from the market,” Faith Birol, the executive director of the IEA said in a statement.
“The encouraging news is that solar and wind are filling much of the gap, with the uptick in coal appearing to be relatively small and temporary.”
Growth of solar and wind power in 2022 likely averted about 600 million extra tonnes of CO2 emissions, the report found, roughly the same an extra 129 million cars hitting the road.
Hydropower output also increased over 2021’s levels, adding to non-fossil fuel energy sources.
But emissions from oil are expected to rise by about 180 million tonnes in 2022 — spurred in large part by travel, which is bouncing back to pre-Covid pandemic levels.
Emissions from coal are set to rise by about 2 per cent this year, driven in large part by use in Asia. While Europe has also been using more coal this year as natural gas supplies dry up due to the war in Ukraine, those additional emissions will likely be offset by other emissions reductions on the continent, the report notes.
Much of 2021’s rise was a bounce-back from 2020, when overall fossil fuel emissions fell nearly 4 per cent, driven down largely by the Covid-19 pandemic. In all but three years between 2008 and 2019, fossil fuel emissions increased overall, though rarely more than two per cent year-over-year.
The world emits 33.8 billion tonnes of CO2 each year – among other greenhouse gases like methane – and this number must be brought closer to zero if the world wants to avoid dangerous levels of warming. In March, a UN climate science panel warned that emissions must start decreasing by 2025 at the latest to keep warming limited to around 1.5 degrees Celsius, considered a threshold for some of the worst possible impacts of the climate crisis.
Already, the world has warmed about 1.2C above 19th-century temperatures.
Next month, world leaders will convene in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt for Cop 27, the UN’s climate change conference, where countries will negotiate on new plans to limit emissions and future warming.