A worker cuts steel pipes near a coal-fired power plant in Zhangjiakou, China November 12, 2021.
Greg Baker | AFP | Getty Images
Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions hit their highest level in history last year, according to the International Energy Agency, as economies rebounded from the coronavirus pandemic with high dependency coal.
The IEA found that global energy-related CO2 emissions increased by 6% in 2021 to a record high of 36.3 billion metric tons. In an analysis published on Tuesday, the Paris-based organization identified the use of coal as the main driver of growth.
“The recovery in energy demand in 2021 has been compounded by adverse weather and energy market conditions – including spikes in natural gas prices – which have led to more coal being burned despite the strongest ever growth in renewable energy generation,” the IEA said.
The energy agency said its estimate was based on a fuel-by-fuel and region-by-region analysis. Breaking down his findings, he said coal was responsible for more than 40% of the overall growth in global CO2 emissions last year, reaching a record 15.3 billion metric tons.
“CO2 emissions from natural gas rebounded well above their 2019 levels to reach 7.5 billion tonnes,” the IEA said, adding that CO2 emissions from oil were 10.7 billion metric tons. Oil emissions were “significantly below pre-pandemic levels” due to “the limited recovery in global transport activity in 2021, mainly in the aviation sector”.
China has played an important role in the increase in emissions, according to the IEA. “The rebound in global CO2 emissions above pre-pandemic levels was largely driven by China, where they increased by 750 million tonnes between 2019 and 2021,” he said.
“In 2021 alone, China’s CO2 emissions exceeded 11.9 billion tons, accounting for 33 percent of the global total,” he said.
Even as coal use jumped, the IEA also noted how renewables and nuclear managed to provide a greater share of electricity generation than fossil fuels in 2021. renewables exceeded 8,000 terawatt-hours last year, which the IEA described as “an all-time high.”
Although it remains an important source of electricity, coal has a substantial effect on the environment.
The US Energy Information Administration lists a range of emissions from burning coal. These include carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, particulates and nitrogen oxides. Elsewhere, Greenpeace has described coal as “the dirtiest and dirtiest way to produce energy”.
The IEA said it was now clear that the economic recovery from Covid-19 had not been sustainable. “The world must now ensure that the global rebound in emissions in 2021 is timely – and that an accelerated energy transition contributes to global energy security and lower energy prices for consumers,” he said. -he declares.
The IEA’s findings underscore the Herculean task of achieving the goals set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement and the more recent Glasgow Climate Pact. While major economies attempt to increase their renewable energy capacity, the world remains heavily dependent on fossil fuels.
In recent weeks, this sad reality has been highlighted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, not least because Russia was the largest supplier of oil and natural gas to the EU last year, according to Eurostat.
On Tuesday, the EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, released what it called “the outline of a plan to make Europe independent of Russian fossil fuels well before” the end of the decade.
“We must become independent of Russian oil, coal and gas,” said Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “We simply cannot rely on a supplier that explicitly threatens us.”
The Commission’s announcement came after the IEA said the EU should not enter into new gas supply contracts with Russia to reduce its dependence on Russian natural gas.