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Carbon emissions to grow by smaller fraction than last year’s increase

Carbon emissions are set to grow by just under 1% this year, a much smaller fraction than last year’s sharp increase following the pandemic.

This is despite the current energy crisis currently gripping the world and is down to the rapid expansion of renewable energy and electric vehicles (EVs), the International Energy Agency (IEA) says.

Global CO2 emissions are set to reach 33.8 billion tonnes this year, increasing by 300 million tonnes, a much smaller jump than the 2 billion tonnes emitted in 2021, as the world attempted to recover economically following the pandemic.

This year’s increase, however, were driven by power generation and rebounds in the aviation industry.

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‘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. 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,’ said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. ‘This means that CO2 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. Those changes are set to accelerate thanks to the major clean energy policy plans that have advanced around the world in recent months.’

Emissions could have tripled and been close to 1 billion tonnes were it not for the rapid deployment of renewables and EVs, with solar and wind leading global renewable energy generation. More than 700 terawatt-hours (TWh) were recorded, the largest annual rise on record.

This decrease in CO2 emissions resumes a years-long trend of consistent improvement which was disrupted by last year’s economic recovery from the Covid pandemic.

Electricity from wind and solar is growing more than any other power source in 2022, but coal is still expected to see a large increase in some countries resorting to the fossil fuel in response to soaring natural gas prices. Coal generation is set to grow by 2%, led by increases in Asia.

Future energy trends remain uncertain, as the war in Ukraine continues, but the IEA says current trends show ‘promising signs of lasting structural changes to the CO2 intensity of global energy.’

Major government investment in clean energy is likely to spur this on too. Notable policies include the US Inflation Reduction Act, the EU’s decarbonisation plans, Japan’s Greens Transformation (GX) plan and clean energy targets in China and India.

Photo by Alexander Tsang

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