Carbon dioxide emissions from energy hit a global record high last year, but rose more slowly than expected thanks to rapid growth in renewable energy as a result of the energy crisis caused by Russia’s war on Ukraine.
The record 36.8bn tonnes of carbon emissions in 2022 was a rise of just under 1 per cent, the International Energy Agency said in its latest report. This compares with a rise of 6 per cent the previous year following a rebound in economic activity after coronavirus pandemic lockdowns eased.
In Europe, carbon emissions fell by 2.5 per cent in 2022. The IEA said Europe benefited from record levels of renewable energy and power-saving measures caused by the fall in gas supplies from Russia, helped by the second-warmest start to winter in the last 30 years.
“Without clean energy, the growth in [carbon] emissions would have been nearly three times as high,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol.
Renewable energy sources met 90 per cent of last year’s growth in electricity generation, the IEA said, as wind and solar power set new records.
Despite this progress, Birol warned that the continued rise in carbon emissions was “hindering efforts to meet the world’s climate targets”. Countries around the world have committed to limit global temperature rises to well below 2C and ideally 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, under the Paris accord. Temperatures have already risen at least 1.1C.
The IEA report found that emissions from coal were up by 1.6 per cent, while emissions from oil increased by 2.5 per cent. About half of the increase in oil-related emissions came from aviation as consumers returned to flying after the pandemic.
Emissions from natural gas fell by 1.6 per cent globally, and by 13.5 per cent in Europe, as supplies tightened following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
As the world’s biggest polluter annually, China’s emissions were largely flat because of the country’s strict Covid-19 measures, declining construction activity and reductions in industrial and transport emissions.
But in the US, the second-biggest emitter and the most polluting on a historical basis, the rise in emissions was 0.8 per cent — perversely as a consequence of the country grappling with extreme temperatures that are believed by scientists to be exacerbated by climate change.
Regionally, the largest increase in emissions came from Asia, excluding China, where the number was 4.3 per cent.
The IEA also reported recently that the global fossil fuel industry emissions of methane increased to a near record in 2022.