bneGREEN: Rise in global CO2 emissions mostly offset by clean energy growth

bneGREEN: Rise in global CO2 emissions mostly offset by clean energy growth
/ bne IntelliNews
By by Roberta Harrington in Los Angeles March 7, 2023

According to the latest report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), CO2 Emissions in 2022, global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions rose by less than 1% in 2022.

This increase was smaller than expected due to the growth of solar photovoltaics (PV), wind, electric vehicle (EVs), heat pumps and energy efficiency. These technologies helped to limit the impact of increased coal and oil usage during the global energy crisis, said IEA.

An additional 550mn tonnes of emissions were avoided due to the greater deployment of clean energy technologies. Renewables met 90% of last year’s global growth in electricity. Solar PV and wind generation each grew by around 275 TWh, a new annual record.

But despite the smaller increase in emissions in 2022, the report suggests that emissions are still on an unsustainable growth trajectory. This calls for stronger actions to accelerate the clean energy transition and meet energy and climate goals, warned the global agency.

Global energy-related CO2 emissions grew by 0.9%, or 321mn tonnes, in 2022. This reached a new high of more than 36.8bn tonnes.

However, the rise in emissions was significantly slower than global economic growth of 3.2%, which indicates a return to a decade-long trend of lowered CO2 emissions that was broken by 2021’s sharp rebound in emissions. Improvements in the CO2 intensity of energy use were slightly slower than the past decade’s average. Extreme weather events and nuclear power plants (NPPs) being offline contributed to the rise in emissions, said IEA.

“The impacts of the energy crisis didn’t result in the major increase in global emissions that was initially feared – and this is thanks to the outstanding growth of renewables, EVs, heat pumps and energy-efficient technologies,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “Without clean energy, the growth in CO2 emissions would have been nearly three times as high,” he said.  

“However, we still see emissions growing from fossil fuels, hindering efforts to meet the world’s climate targets. International and national fossil fuel companies are making record revenues and need to take their share of responsibility, in line with their public pledges to meet climate goals. It’s critical that they review their strategies to make sure they’re aligned with meaningful emissions reductions.”

Following two years of exceptional oscillations in energy use and emissions, caused in part by the COVID-19 pandemic, last year’s growth was much slower than 2021’s rebound of more than 6%. Emissions from energy combustion increased by 423mn tonnes, while emissions from industrial processes decreased by 102mn tonnes.

Specific challenges in 2022 contributed to the growth in emissions. Of the 321mn tonne CO2 increase in emissions, 60mn tonnes can be attributed to cooling and heating demand in extreme weather and another 55mn tonnes to NPPs being offline, said the report.

CO2 emissions from coal grew by 1.6%, as the global energy crisis led to a wave of gas-to-coal switching in Asia and Europe and more than offset reductions from natural gas.. Although this increase was only around one-quarter of the rise seen in 2021, it still exceeded the last decade's average growth rate. CO2 emissions from coal grew by 1.6%, or 243mn tonnes, far exceeding the last decade’s average growth rate, and reaching a new all-time high of almost 15.5 gigatonnes.

In contrast, emissions from natural gas declined by 1.6% due to supply tightening following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Reductions in emissions from gas were particularly pronounced in Europe (-13.5%). The Asia-Pacific region also saw unprecedented reductions (-1.8%).

CO2 emissions from oil rose by 2.5%,  by 268mn tonnes to 11.2 gigatonnes, primarily due to aviation as air travel rebounded from pandemic lows. Tempering this increase, electric vehicles continued to gain momentum in 2022, with over 10mn cars sold, exceeding 14% of global car sales.

The biggest sectoral increase in emissions in 2022 came from electricity and heat generation, whose emissions were up by 1.8%, or 261mn tonnes. In particular, global emissions from coal-fired electricity and heat generation grew by 224mn tonnes, or 2.1%, led by emerging economies in Asia.

The report highlights that China's emissions remained broadly flat in 2022 due to strict COVID-19 measures and declining construction activity, leading to weaker economic growth and reductions in industrial and transport emissions.

Meanwhile, the European Union's emissions fell by 2.5% thanks to a record deployment of renewables, which helped ensure the use of coal was not as high as some observers had anticipated. A mild start to the European winter and energy savings measures in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine also contributed to the decline.

In the US, emissions grew by 0.8%, excluding China. Buildings stepped up their energy consumption to cope with extreme temperatures, contributing to this rise. Excluding China, emissions from Asia's emerging and developing economies rose by 4.2%, reflecting their rapid economic and energy demand growth.

The report emphasises that the global CO2 emissions numbers are based on the IEA's detailed region-by-region and fuel-by-fuel analysis, drawing on official national data and publicly available energy, economic and meteorological data. It covers CO2 emissions from all energy combustion and industrial processes, providing a complete picture of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions in 2022.