CO2 pollution bounces back | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 03, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:42 AM, March 03, 2021

CO2 pollution bounces back

Says IAE, warns climate goals at risk as countries open up economies

Global CO2 emissions have returned to pre-pandemic levels and then some, threatening to put climate treaty targets for capping global warming out of reach, the International Energy Agency said yesterday. 

Energy-related emissions were two percent higher in December 2020 than in the same month a year earlier, driven by economic recovery and a lack of clean energy policies, the IEA said in a report.

"The rebound in global carbon emissions toward the end of last year is a stark warning that not enough is being done to accelerate clean energy transitions worldwide," IEA executive director Fatih Birol said in a statement.

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"If governments don't move quickly with the right energy policies, this could put at risk the world's historic opportunity to make 2019 the definitive peak in global emissions."

A year ago, the intergovernmental agency called on governments to put clean energy at the heart of economic stimulus plans, but the appeal appears to have fallen on deaf ears for the most part.

"Our numbers show we are returning to carbon-intensive business-as-usual," Birol said.

In China, carbon pollution last year exceeded 2019 levels by more than half a percent despite a draconian, though brief, lockdown to halt the virus' spread.

China -- which accounts for more than a quarter of global CO2 output -- was the only major economy to grow in 2020.

Other countries are also now seeing emissions climb above pre-Covid crisis levels, the report found.

In India, they rose above 2019 levels from September as economic activity increased and Covid restrictions relaxed.

The rebound of road transport in Brazil from May drove a recovery in oil demand, while increases in gas demand toward the end of 2020 pushed emissions above 2019 levels in the final quarter.

US emissions fell by 10 percent in 2020, but by December were approaching levels from the year before. 

Global emissions plunged by almost two billion tonnes in 2020, the largest absolute decline in history.  More than half of that decline was due to lower use of fuel for road transport and aviation.

The 2015 Paris Agreement enjoins nations to cap the rise in global temperatures "well below" two degrees Celsius compared with preindustrial levels. Earth's surface is already 1.1C warmer on average, enough to increase the frequency and intensity of deadly heatwaves, droughts and superstorms made more destructive by rising seas.

In May, the IEA is to publish its first global road map on how the energy sector can reach net-zero by 2050.

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