Global carbon dioxide emissions will grow less than 1% in 2022, IEA says

Economic rebound after first year of pandemic resulted in a record rise in emissions last year

A floating solar farm in Portugal. The rising deployment of renewable energy is expected to help outweigh increases in coal-related emissions this year. Bloomberg
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Fossil fuel combustion will grow by less than 1 per cent in 2022, supported by a “strong” expansion of renewables and rising adoption of electric vehicles, the International Energy Agency said in a report on Wednesday.

Global carbon dioxide emissions are on course to increase by about 300 million tonnes to 33.8 billion tonnes this year, the Paris-based intergovernmental organisation said.

Emissions jumped by nearly two billion tonnes in 2021, as the world economy rebounded from the effects of the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, which had brought travel to a standstill.

The IEA said that this year’s emissions — mostly driven by power generation and recovery in air travel — would have more than tripled, had it not been for “major” deployments in renewable energy technologies and electric vehicles.

The global energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February has prompted a scramble for other energy sources to replace natural gas supplies that Russia has withheld from the market.

“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,” IEA executive director Fatih Birol said.

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Faced with severe gas shortages, some European countries have ramped up their imports and production of coal, triggering concerns about their ability to meet climate targets.

The rise in European coal use will be “temporary”, with a strong pipeline of new renewable projects forecast to add around 50 gigawatts of capacity in 2023, the IEA said.

The global energy sector’s carbon dioxide intensity — a metric that measures the amount of greenhouse gases emitted per unit of electricity produced — will improve “slightly” this year, the IEA said.

Energy-related emissions rose to their highest ever in 2021.

“This means that CO2 [carbon dioxide] emissions are growing far less quickly this year than some people feared — and that policy actions by governments are driving real structural changes in the energy economy,” Mr Birol said.

“Those changes are set to accelerate thanks to the major clean energy policy plans that have advanced around the world in recent months.”

Carbon dioxide emissions in China, the world’s second-largest economy, will remain broadly “flat” in 2022, mostly due to weaker economic growth and major solar and wind energy deployments, said the IEA.

Globally, solar photovoltaic and wind are leading an increase in global renewable electricity generation in 2022 of more than 700 terawatt-hours, the largest annual rise on record.

Amid shortages and soaring prices, natural gas use is set to decline, resulting in a 40m-tonne drop in carbon emissions this year, said the IEA.

Carbon dioxide emissions from crude oil will be up by about 180m tonnes, driven largely by the transport sector as travel restrictions have been lifted and pre-pandemic commuting and travel patterns have resumed.

Aviation is expected to contribute around three-quarters of the rise in emissions from oil use, notably due to increases in international air travel.

However, the industry’s emissions are still only around 80 per cent of their pre-pandemic levels, the IEA said.

Updated: October 20, 2022, 7:35 AM