A new report published by the International Energy Agency (IEA) sees global energy-related CO2 emissions rising by 1.5 billion tonnes in 2021, driven by a strong rebound in demand for coal in electricity generation.
This is the second-largest increase in history, reversing most of last year’s decline caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the biggest annual rise in emissions since 2010, during the carbon-intensive recovery from the global financial crisis.
“This is a dire warning that the economic recovery from the COVID crisis is currently anything but sustainable for our climate,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director. “Unless governments around the world move rapidly to start cutting emissions, we are likely to face an even worse situation in 2022. The Leaders Summit on Climate hosted by US President Joe Biden this week is a critical moment to commit to clear and immediate action ahead of COP26 in Glasgow.”
The key driver is coal demand, which is set to grow by 4.5 per cent, surpassing its 2019 level and approaching its all-time peak from 2014, with the electricity sector accounting for three-quarters of this increase. The expected rise in coal use dwarfs that of renewables by almost 60 per cent, despite accelerating demand for renewables. More than 80 per cent of the projected growth in coal demand in 2021 is set to come from Asia, led by China. Coal use in the United States and the European Union is also on course to increase but will remain well below pre-crisis levels.
Oil is also rebounding strongly but is expected to stay below its 2019 peak, as the aviation sector remains under pressure.