CO2 emissions lessened in 2022, but remain on unsustainable growth trajectory: IEA 

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Global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions rose by under one percent in 2022 — less than initially feared — as the growth of solar, wind, electric vehicles (EVs), heat pumps and energy efficiency helped limit the impact of increased use of coal and oil amid the global energy crisis, says an International Energy Agency (IEA) report published earlier this month. 
 
The report titled “CO2 Emissions in 2022”, however, cautioned that although the rise in emissions last year was far smaller than the exceptional jump of over six percent in 2021, emissions remain on an unsustainable growth trajectory, and called for stronger actions to accelerate the clean energy transition and move the world onto a path towards meeting its energy and climate goals. 

Though CO2 emissions grew last year by less than 1 percent, these reached a new high of nearly 37 billion tonnes aided by extreme weather phenomena and the shutdown of an unusually large number of nuclear plants.  

“Extreme weather events including droughts and heatwaves, as well as an unusually large number of nuclear power plants being offline, contributed to the rise in emissions”, the IEA said.  

Global energy-related CO2 emissions grew in 2022 by 0.9 percent, or 321 million tonnes, reaching a new high of more than 36.8 billion tonnes, according to the report. 
 
The report is the first in a new series called the “Global Energy Transitions Stocktake”, which will bring together the IEA’s latest analysis in one place, making it freely accessible in support of the first Global Stocktake in the lead-up to the COP28 United Nations Climate Change Conference in November 2023. 
 
The rise in emissions was significantly slower than global economic growth of 3.2 percent, signalling a return to a decade-long trend that was interrupted in 2021 by the rapid and emissions-intensive economic rebound from the Covid 19 crisis. An additional 550 million tonnes of emissions were avoided by increased deployment of clean energy technologies, the report said. 
 
“The impacts of the energy crisis didn’t result in the major increase in global emissions that was initially feared — and this is thanks to the outstanding growth of renewables, EVs, heat pumps and energy efficient technologies. Without clean energy, the growth in CO2 emissions would have been nearly three times as high,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. 
 
“However, we still see emissions growing from fossil fuels, hindering efforts to meet the world’s climate targets. International and national fossil fuel companies are making record revenues and need to take their share of responsibility, in line with their public pledges to meet climate goals. It’s critical that they review their strategies to make sure they’re aligned with meaningful emissions reductions,” he added.  
 
CO2 emissions from coal grew by 1.6 percent as the global energy crisis continued to spur a wave of switching from gas to coal in Asia, and to a lesser degree in Europe. 
 
According to the report, while the increase in coal emissions was only around one-quarter of 2021’s rise, it still far exceeded the last decade’s average growth rate. However, the increase in emissions from coal more than offset the 1.6 percent decline in emissions from natural gas. 

CO2 emissions from oil grew even more than those from coal, increasing by 2.5 percent but remaining below pre-pandemic levels. Around half of the year-on-year increase in oil’s emissions came from aviation as air travel continued to rise from the lows caused by the pandemic . 
 
China’s emissions were broadly flat in 2022 as strict Covid-19 measures and declining construction activity led to weaker economic growth and reductions in industrial and transport emissions. 
 
Instead, the European Union’s emissions fell by 2.5 percent, owing to record deployment of renewables that helped ensure the use of coal was not as high as anticipated. 
 
The report said that a mild start to the European winter and energy saving measures in response to supply disruptions also contributed to lower emissions. 
 
In the US, emissions grew by 0.8 percent as buildings increased their energy consumption to cope with extreme temperatures. Excluding China, emissions from Asia’s emerging and developing economies increased by 4.2 percent, reflecting their rapid economic and energy demand growth. 
 
The global CO2 emissions numbers in the report are based on the IEA’s detailed region-by-region and fuel-by-fuel analysis, drawing on the latest official national data and publicly available energy, economic and weather data. 
 
According to the IEA, the report covers CO2 emissions from all energy combustion and industrial processes, including information on methane and nitrous oxide emissions, thus providing a complete picture of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions in 2022.