August 12, 2020

Global emissions increased (again) in 2019

The Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, already said "we either put an end to carbon addiction or all measures in the fight against climate change will fail." If a week ago the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced that the concentration of CO2 had reached a new record, 407.4 parts per million in 2018, a new report published by the Global Carbon Project advances that we are going to get worse. Thus, while politicians and technicians debate at the climate summit in Madrid what to commit to reach the next COP in Glasgow with advanced duties, the truth is that global emissions are expected to increase 0.6% this year. It may seem that it is not much, the problem is that they should be reducing 7.6% a year by 2030 to try to contain the temperature increase to 1.5 ° with respect to pre-industrial values. Some information is not very promising because despite the decrease in coal consumption, emissions continue to increase due to the increased use of natural gas and oil. WMO shared this same estimate yesterday: «The official average figures for 2019 will not be available until the end of 2020, but real-time data from several sites indicate that CO2 levels continued to increase in 2019» and all this despite the multiple Summits, agreements and commitments.

An increase that although it is slower than the one registered in 2018, but which indicates that we continue moving in the wrong direction given that governments should decarbonize their economy quickly, stop subsidizing hydrocarbons, ultimately change the energy model. Natural gas, despite being the hydrocarbon that emits less CO2, has been the one that has increased the most global emissions since 2012. "Its constant use simply cooks the planet slower than coal," says Glen Peters of the Center for Oslo International Climate Research (Cicero). "There may be some reduction in short-term emissions from using natural gas instead of coal, but this consumption must be eliminated quickly to meet the climate objectives," he adds.

By type of fuel it is estimated that emissions from the use of coal will decrease 0.9% this year. The problem is that those of oil consumption will grow in that same percentage and those of natural gas, 2.6%. This lower growth rate of emissions is due to a significant decrease in the use of coal in the EU and the US, as well as a slower, although slower, growth in the use of coal in China and India compared to previous years. This decelerated increase in emissions is also due to the period of lower economic growth in which we are: «During most of 2019 it seemed that the use of coal would grow worldwide, but a weaker than expected economic growth in China and India, and a record year of hydroelectric power production in India caused by a strong monsoon changed these perspectives, ”said Robbie Andrew, a researcher at that center.

Scientists remember that fossil emissions (fuels, industry and cement) grew 3% annually in the 2000s. After a slowdown they grew again: in 2017 (1.5%), 2018 (2.1%) and in 2019 (0.6%). The reason? That almost all countries have contributed to this increase; either because they emit more or because they reduce less than they should. Thus, in the US they have decreased 1.1% a year since they reached the peak in 2005, and that trend continues in 2019 with a decrease of 1.7%. In the case of the EU, our emissions have decreased by around 1.4% per year in the last decade and are expected to be reduced by 1.7% in 2019. And they don't go down any more because, despite the fact that coal consumption falls by 10%, it increased, instead, oil and natural gas. Hence, the emission reduction rate is lower than in 2018 (-2.1%).

China and India, under the magnifying glass

China had low growth and an unexpected decrease in emissions between 2014 and 2016, but in 2017 and 2018 they increased 1.7% and 2.3%, respectively. In 2019, they are expected to rise 2.6%, and could have been worse if it were not for the economic slowdown. "There was hope that China would move away from the use of coal, but this consumption continues to grow," says researcher Jan Ivar Korsbakken. "China," he continues, "uses half of all coal, and it seems he will continue to do so in the coming years." And that despite having increased the production of renewable and nuclear energy. In India, emissions have grown by 5.1% per year over the last decade, but this year is expected to rise less: 1.8% because the economic situation has led the country to an increase in oil consumption and slower natural gas

Given this scenario, it is estimated that the CO2 concentration will rise 2.2 ppm in 2019 to 410. It is urgently necessary to change the production model. The researchers who have prepared this study, published in "Nature Climate Change", "Environmental Research Letters" and "Earth System Science Data", conclude that current government policies are insufficient in the fight against climate change. And they go further: the growth of low-emission technologies (solar, wind or electric vehicles) has only slowed the growth of global emissions, and that at best.

In any case, it is an estimate, the first to analyze this year's emissions. What makes it clear is that we are not going the right way. "Despite the political rhetoric and rapid growth of low carbon technologies, global fossil CO2 emissions are likely to be more than 4% higher in 2019 than in 2015, when the Paris Agreement was adopted" added Peters.

(tagsToTranslate) Madrid Climate Summit

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