Carbon surge expected in post-COVID energy boom

April 20, 2021
IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said,
IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said, "Unless governments around the world move rapidly to start cutting emissions, we are likely to face an even worse situation in 2022."

PARIS — As US President Joe Biden hosts a virtual climate summit with around 40 world leaders, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are forecast to rise by the second largest annual amount on record, according to the latest estimates from the IEA.

The IEA’s Global Energy Review 2021 predicts carbon dioxide emissions would rise to 33 billion tons this year, up 1.5 billion tons from 2020 levels as global economies pour stimulus cash into fossil fuels to aid recovery from the COVID-19 recession.

Energy-related CO2 emissions are to increase by 5 percent — or 1,500 billion tons — this year to reach 33 billion tons. This is the biggest annual increase since 2010, when the world was recovering from the financial crisis.

"This expected increase would reverse 80 percent of the drop in 2020, with emissions ending up just 1.2 per cent (or 400 Mt) below 2019 emissions levels," the IEA flagged in its report released on Tuesday.

The leap will be second only to the massive rebound 10 years ago after the financial crisis, and will put climate hopes out of reach unless governments act quickly, the IEA has warned.

The use of coal in Asia is expected to be key: The IEA says it will push global demand up by 4.5%, taking it close to the global peak seen in 2014. However, renewable energy is also booming, with green sources set to supply 30% of electricity this year.

The IEA predicts demand for coal will rise by 4.5 percent this year, exceeding levels seen in 2019 and approaching a peak reached in 2014. More than 80 percent of the growth in coal demand is to be concentrated in Asia with China accounting for over half of global growth. Demand for coal is also expected to increase in Europe and the US but should remain "well below" pre-crisis levels.

Overall, energy demand is set to increase by 4.6 percent this year as economies worldwide sputter back to life after all but grounding to a halt in the spring of 2020 when countries imposed strict measures to curb the spread of the pandemic.

The International Monetary Fund projects the world economy will grow by 6 percent in 2021 following last year's 3.3 percent contraction.

The use of fossil fuel, in general, is set to grow, although oil consumption is expected to remain lower than 2019 levels, in part due to continued suppressed demand for oil for road transport and aviation.

Among fossil fuels, natural gas is on course for the biggest rise relative to 2019 levels with an expected 3.2 percent increase in 2021, propelled by demand from Asia, the Middle East and Russia.

"This is a dire warning that the economic recovery from the COVID crisis is currently anything but sustainable," IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement. "Unless governments around the world move rapidly to start cutting emissions, we are likely to face an even worse situation in 2022," he added.

The IEA notes however that demand for renewables is also expected to reach record levels this year.

Demand for renewables is projected to increase by 8 percent this year, after a 3 percent rise in 2020 to provide more than half of the increase in global electricity supply this year.

China is likely to account for almost half the global increase in renewable electricity generation with over 900 TWh (Terawatt per hour), followed by the EU with 580 TWH and the US's 550 TWh. — Agencies

April 20, 2021
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