Global CO2 emissions fell by 5.8% in 2020, the biggest decline since World War II

Water vapor emanates from several chimneys at a plant in Boxberg, Germany.

The global carbon dioxide emissions (CO2), the main greenhouse gas, they were reduced last year by 5.8% in what was the largest decline since Second World War, but with the recovery in certain countries, in December they were already 2% higher than twelve months earlier.

The International Energy Agency (IEA), which publishes an analysis of these figures on Tuesday, notes that this drop was very different by region depending on the halt in activity suffered by the crisis of the covid, and that the evolution over the months was also very uneven.

In absolute terms, the reduction was almost 2 billion tons, which is equivalent to all the emissions generated in one year by the European Union.

U.S contributed to that decrease with almost 500 million tons due to a decrease of 10%, a percentage equivalent to that of the European Union, which emitted about 250 million tons less since its economy is in itself much less polluting.

In the EU the use of coal to produce electricity was reduced by more than 20%, while the share of renewables increased by four percentage points, to 39%.

Both the United States and even more so the European Union in December remained at emission volumes clearly below those they had twelve months earlier.

In India, the annual decline was 7% in the whole of 2020, but it became the steepest of the large economies in April (-40%) and recovered from September.

China, which is the main polluting country, distinguished itself from the rest with a final increase in emissions in 2020 of 0.8% (75 million additional tons).

In addition, another of the peculiarities of the Chinese giant is that after the downturn experienced in the first quarter, as of April it was generating more CO2 than a year earlier. In December that rise reached 7%.

IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol sees the reported spike in global emissions late last year as a warning that “not enough is being done to accelerate the transition to clean energy.”

And that – adds Birol – jeopardizes “the world historical opportunity” to make 2019 the definitive peak.

The cut in CO2 generation in 2020 was greater than that experienced in energy consumption (-4%), which is explained by the drop in fossil fuels, and very particularly in oil (-8.6%). more than coal (-4%), which was partially offset by the pull in the share of renewable energies.

CO2 caused by oil combustion decreased by more than 1,100 million tons, and 50% of that amount was due to the decline in activity in road transport and 35% in aviation.

Aviation as a sector suffered the most profound impact in relative terms. In April, the planes were operating at a level 70% lower than a year earlier and in the year as a whole their emissions fell by 45% to 265 million tons, a level that had not been seen since 1999.

In electricity generation, 3.3% less CO2 was produced last year (equivalent to 450 million tons) and the most significant thing was the increase in the share of renewables (29% of the total, compared to 27% in 2019) to the detriment of plants that burn fossil fuels.


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