Emissions growing at slower rate but reductions vital, report says

World still far from achieving cuts needed to avoid disaster, climate change study says

Carbon emissions are growing at slower rate based on 2019 figures but strong demand for oil and gas means the world is far from achieving drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions needed to avert catastrophic global warming, according to the latest Global Carbon Project (GCP) data.  Photograph: Sascha Steinbach/EPA

Carbon emissions are growing at slower rate based on 2019 figures but strong demand for oil and gas means the world is far from achieving drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions needed to avert catastrophic global warming, according to the latest Global Carbon Project (GCP) data. Photograph: Sascha Steinbach/EPA

 

Carbon emissions are growing at slower rate but the world is far from achieving drastic reductions needed to avert catastrophic global warming, according to the latest Global Carbon Project (GCP) data.

In spite of every indication emissions will reach another record high in coming years, coal use fell sharply in the US and Europe, helping slow the projected growth in carbon emissions to 0.6 per cent in 2019, compared with 2.1 per cent the previous year.

The data was published on Wednesday to coincide with the UN’s COP25 climate summit in Madrid.

Growth of global emissions in 2019 was almost entirely due to China, which increased its CO2 output. The rest of the world actually reduced its emissions marginally, thanks to falling coal use as well as much more modest increases in India and other countries, compared to previous years.

GCP researchers say “a further rise in emissions in 2020 is likely” as global consumption of natural gas is “surging”, oil use continues to increase and overall energy demand rises.

Despite the rapid rise and falling costs of renewables in many parts of the world, the majority of increases in energy demand continue to be met by fossil fuels gas met around two-fifths of the increase in demand in 2018, against just a quarter coming from renewables.

Emissions

For this year human-caused CO2 emissions, including those from fossil fuels (and related industry) and land use, are projected to increase by 1.3 per cent in 2019. This is driven by a 5 per cent increase in land-use emissions – including deforestation and wildfires – which is the fastest rate in five years. While land use only represents around 14 per cent of total 2019 emissions, it will contribute more than half the emissions increase in 2019.

While more modest than in recent years, the increase in emissions in 2019 puts the world even further away from meeting its climate change goals under the Paris Agreement, the GCP warns.

Speaking in Madrid Christian Aid Ireland policy and advocacy advisor Jenny Higgins said confirmation carbon emissions continue to rise is “a frightening yet sadly unsurprising finding”.

The only way to stop global temperatures rising beyond the agreed limit of 1.5 degrees was for all countries to work together, she added. “With the third highest level of carbon emissions per person in the EU, Ireland needs to step up and play its part in global efforts to tackle climate change by taking immediate and concrete steps to rapidly reduce its carbon emissions.”

Oil and gas

A striking aspect of the report’s findings is that future emissions growth will come from oil and gas, she noted. “If Ireland is to get real about meaningfully tackling climate change, the Government needs to stop granting further licenses for gas exploration and throw its full weight behind supporting renewable energy while ensuring nobody is left behind during the decarbonisation of the economy.”

Gas is, she said, not a transition fuel. “By facilitating exploration and supply of new gas, Ireland runs the risk of being locked into a fossil fuel dependent path which will only add to our emissions, further climate breakdown and result in hefty EU fines,” Ms Higgins said.