Global emissions continue to climb as pressure mounts for greater European Union ambition

Excavators and trucks at a coal mine in South Kalimantan Indonesia

Excavators and trucks at a coal mine in South Kalimantan Indonesia

This story first appeared on the WRI blog.

In its annual analysis of fossil fuel trends, the Global Carbon Project said CO2 emissions were on course to rise 0.6 percent this year - slower than previous years but still a world away from what is needed to keep global warming in check.

China's emissions growth is projected at 2.6 percent this year, similar to the pace in 2017 and 2018, and the nation is catching up with European emissions on an individual basis at about 6.7 tons per person per year.

South Africans have a serious climate change problem.

Some 14% comes from deforestation and changes to the way land is used, and emissions were up 0.8 billion tonnes above 2018 levels, to six billion tonnes, with more fires in the Brazilian Amazon and Indonesia.

"A failure to promptly tackle the driving factors behind continued emissions growth will limit the world's ability to shift to a pathway consistent with 1.5°C or well below 2°C of global warming, the aim of the Paris Climate Agreement", said the report's lead researcher Professor Pierre Friedlingstein of the University of Exeter in a statement. Yes, the U.S.'s coal emissions decreased this year, and yes, India's coal emissions are projected to rise, but it's not accurate to say that countries like India are dragging us all down because they aren't decreasing their emissions. It's simply working alongside fossil fuel sources to provide new energy, so carbon emissions aren't offset. China's is 7 tonnes.

Though their Carbon dioxide emissions are high, the per capita emissions in India are still six to eight times less than the per capita emissions in the US, in part because there are still millions in India without access to reliable electricity.

Coal is still the biggest source of carbon emissions, accounting for 40 percent, followed by oil (34 percent) and natural gas (20 percent).

Businesses will be able to offset their emissions through certain allowances, which could result in a reduction of up to 95% of the carbon tax payable. US generation from coal is projected to decline 11% from 2018 to 2019 to a level that has not been witnessed for more than 50 years, about half of what its peak was in 2005. And in the United Kingdom, coal has dropped from 42% in 2012 to only 5% of electricity generation in 2018.

Authors of the report found that global coal emissions are expected to decline by 0.9 per cent in 2019. In India, carbon dioxide emissions from coal are anticipated to grow by 1.8% this year, less than half the average growth rate of the last five years.

Executive Director of the Global Carbon Budget, Dr Pep Canadell said it is concerning that "natural gas emissions are fast accelerating". However, the study notes there is considerable uncertainty over coal emissions, while natural gas and oil use continues to rise. For example, in 2019, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved 11 LNG export projects. So far, replacement appears to be happening in some major markets, like the United States, but not in others, like Japan, where it is substituting for lost nuclear power.

As with natural gas, oil use also continues to increase globally, up an average of 1.9% per year over the last decade and making up just over a third of global fossil fuel emissions. In the United States there is already almost one vehicle per person, while in many developing markets this ratio is far lower, with one vehicle for every six people in China and one for every 40 people in India.

Airline travel, while representing only 8% of emissions from global oil use, is also growing.

That's the highest level in at least 800,000 years. What's needed is the commitment by more countries to do so and transform their economies for rapid decarbonization. They do not give the estimates of emissions of other greenhouse gases.

The lower growth in Carbon dioxide emissions, though desirable, is only a positive fallout of the slowdown in the Indian economy, according to the report.

"The fact remains that the world is now on track for a high emissions pathway and we need to decrease emissions to net zero globally by the middle of this century to stop further warming of the planet".

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