Daily Management Review

CO2 emissions in the world rose for the first time in three years


Global CO2 emissions from energy production jumped by 1.4% in 2017, or up to 32.5 gigatons. This is the first increase in the last three years. This fact indicates that global efforts to reduce emissions have been "inadequate", according to a new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Sherco Generating Station
Sherco Generating Station
Over the past three years, emissions related to energy production have not changed, which gave us hope that they could begin to decline.

At the same time, emissions are not growing everywhere. So, emissions have decreased in the USA, Mexico, Japan and Great Britain. Moreover, the USA recorded the largest reduction in emissions in one country in 2017 (a decrease of 25 megatons). 

This looks somewhat unexpected, against the background of President Donald Trump's efforts in this area: he left the Paris climate agreement, is actively promoting the extraction of coal, oil and gas, and his Environmental Protection Agency is doing everything to curtail the climate policy of the Obama era.

Despite a clear trend in federal policy, the transition to cleaner energy today can be explained by market forces, rather than the vagaries of Washington. Renewable energy sources are more profitable by a number of indicators than coal and even natural gas in many places.

In previous years, the reduction in CO2 emissions in the US was largely the result of the closure of dirty coal-fired power plants and the transition to gas.

However, in 2017, the decrease in energy-related emissions in the US by 0.5% was due to an increase in the use of renewable energy sources, rather than natural gas. The decrease in demand for electricity also helped.

The share of electricity from renewable sources jumped to 17% in 2017, with 20% of nuclear power.

A similar trend is observed in the United Kingdom and Mexico, where coal is also actively replaced. In Japan, in turn, the use of nuclear energy is restored, which helps to reduce the import of oil, coal and gas.

However, strong economic growth (GDP jumped by 3.7%) and low prices for hydrocarbons led to an increase in consumption. According to experts, a weakening of efforts to increase energy efficiency also contributes to an increase in emissions.

"Global emissions should soon reach a peak, and then start a sharp decline until 2020. This decline should be even more rapid, given the increase in emissions in 2017," the IEA said.

One of the encouraging trends is the lessening of the link between energy consumption and GDP. For decades, economic growth has kept pace with energy consumption. The weakening of this relationship began in the mid-2000s, when the global economy continued to expand, and sky-high oil prices forced us to look for more efficient methods of work. Since then, the global economy has grown much faster than energy consumption.

China in 2017 continued to increase its CO2 emissions, albeit at a lower rate than its GDP can assume. The Chinese economy grew by 7%, and CO2 emissions - by only 1.7%.

The decoupling can partly be explained by the continuing transition from coal to gas, which helps to reduce air pollution in the cities of China. Until recently, the country has been opening a new coal-fired power plant almost every week, but the consumption of coal in China in reality reached its peak in 2013.

Experts are particularly concerned by the fact that energy intensity (energy consumption per unit of output) is decreasing more slowly than before. In 2017, the energy intensity of the world economy fell by 1.6% compared to 2% in 2016.

China and India are the main reason why world energy consumption soared by 2.1% in 2017, which is twice as much as a year ago: these two countries account for 40% of the global growth in energy demand.

"The significant increase in energy-linked global carbon emissions in 2017 indicates that current efforts to combat climate change are still inadequate," said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol, "We are still far from the climate targets set in Paris."

source: theguardian.com