Global CO2 emissions to rise again, climate goals at risk, scientists say

SHARM EL SHEIKH — Global carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels are on track to rise around 1% this year, scientists said on Friday, warning this would make it harder for the world to avoid disastrous levels of climate change.

Released during the United Nations COP27 climate summit, the Global Carbon Budget report laid bare the gap between the promises governments, companies and investors have made to cut planet-warming emissions in future years, and their actions today — which cause emissions to keep rising.

Countries are expected to emit a total 41 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2022, said the report by more than 100 scientists, with 37 billion tonnes from burning fossil fuels and 4 billion tonnes from uses of land like deforestation.

This year’s increase was driven by higher oil use in transport — particularly aviation — as economies continued to reopen from lockdowns during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Emissions from burning coal increased, as countries have turned to the most-polluting fossil fuel after Russia restricted natural gas supplies to Europe after its February invasion of Ukraine, which sent global gas prices soaring.

CO2 output from China, the world’s biggest polluter, fell by 0.9% as COVID-19 lockdowns persisted. European emissions also decreased slightly.

Emissions rose by 1.5% in the United States and jumped by 6% in India, the world’s second and fourth-biggest emitters, respectively.

The UN climate science panel has said global greenhouse gases must decrease 43% by 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5C and avoid its most severe impacts.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a record drop in global CO2 emissions in 2020, but emissions are now back up to slightly above pre-COVID-19 levels.

It is difficult to predict emissions in coming years due to uncertainties around countries’ longer-term response to the pandemic and Russian gas crunch, for example, whether they keep burning coal, or instead invest heavily in clean energy.

“It’s complicated,” said the report’s lead author Pierre Friedlingstein, climate scientist at the University of Exeter. “We can’t say for sure yet that emissions from China are declining in the long run … the return to use of coal in Europe, let’s hope it’s temporary.” — Reuters