January 20, 2022 5:42 pm

Global CO2 emissions are approaching pre-pandemic levels

Global emissions of carbon in 2021 they will approach pre-COVID-19 levels. This is stated in the 16th annual Global Carbon Budget presented by the Global Carbon Project.

The conclusions of this report have been announced in full Glasgow Climate Summit (COP26), which world leaders have attended with the aim of addressing the climate crisis and try to agree on a plan of action for the future.

In 2020, due to the pandemic, emissions fell 5.4%. However, this report, published in the journal Earth System Science Data, foresees a new increase of 4.9% for this year, and estimates that it will reach 36.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) issued.

According to the authors, there could be a further increase in emissions in 2022 if road transport and aviation return to pre-pandemic levels.

Emissions from the use of coal and gas are projected to grow more in 2021 than they fell in 2020, while those from oil use will remain below the levels reached in 2019.

In addition, the main emitters seem to revert to pre-covid-19 trends: in the US and the European Union, emissions of carbon dioxide They continue to decline, but in other countries, such as India and China, they continue to rise. In the case of China, the response to the pandemic has led to further growth in these emissions, driven by the energy and industrial sectors.

According to the information provided by the research team – which includes the Exeter University (UK), the University of East Anglia (UEA, United Kingdom), the International Climate Research Center (CICERO, Norway) and the Stanford University (USA) – cannot be ruled out a further increase in emissions in 2022 if road transport and aviation return to pre-pandemic levels and coal use remains stable.

“The rapid spike in emissions as economies recover from the pandemic reinforces the need for a immediate global action against climate change ”, affirms the Pierre Friedlingstein, lead author and researcher of Global Systems Institute from the University of Exeter.

Investments in the green economy from post-covid recovery plans have so far been insufficient to prevent a substantial return to pre-pandemic levels

Pierre Friedlingstein

“The rebound in global CO emissions2 in 2021 reflects a return to the economy based on fossil fuels before the crisis. Investments in green economy of the post-covid recovery plans have been insufficient so far to avoid a substantial return to pre-pandemic levels, ”adds the expert.

As noted Corinne Le Quere, a member of the Royal Society and a researcher at UEA, “it will take some time to see the effect of changes related to covid-19 on global CO emissions2”. However, the expert highlights that much progress has been made in decarbonization of world energy since Paris Agreement in 2015. In addition, renewable energy they were the only source of energy that grew during the pandemic.

“Now it is necessary that new investments and a climate policy strong support the green economy in a much more systematic way and take fossil fuels out of the equation ”, clarifies the researcher.

The most polluting: China, the US, the European Union and India

This report, which excludes data from international transport (particularly aviation), anticipates that China increase your emissions by 4% compared to 2020 and achieve 5.5% above 2019, which would translate into 11,000 million tons of CO2 –31% of global emissions–.

EE UU could increase its emissions by 7.6% compared to 2020, however, these would be 3.7% lower than in 2019. According to forecasts, in total it would emit 5.1 billion tons of CO2 –14% of world emissions–.

New investments and strong climate policy are needed to support the green economy and take fossil fuels out of the equation

Corinne Le Quere

The projections also predict an increase of 7.6% compared to 2020 by the European Union. However, 4.2% less will be achieved than in 2019. The report predicts that a total of 2.8 billion tonnes of CO would be emitted.2 –7% of planetary emissions–.

Refering to India, emissions are projected to grow 12.6% compared to 2020 and to reach 4.4% above 2019, resulting in a total of 2.7 billion tonnes of CO2 –7% of global emissions–.

For the rest of the world as a whole, CO emissions2 of fossil origin remain below 2019 levels.

Deforestation and land use changes

Over the past decade, net global carbon dioxide emissions from the land use change were 4,100 million tons. Researchers estimate that 14,100 million tons of CO2 were issued by the deforestation and other land use changes, while 9.9 billion tonnes were captured by the regrowth of forests and soil reclamation.

Of the 14,100 million tons of CO2 emitted during the last decade, 9,900 million were captured by forests and soils

The withdrawal of CO2 on the part of forests and soils has grown in the last two decades, while emissions from deforestation and other changes in land use remain relatively stable. This suggests a recent decline in net emissions, albeit with great associated uncertainty.

If CO emissions are combined2 From fossil sources and net land use change, total emissions have remained relatively constant over the last decade, averaging 39.7 billion tonnes of CO2.

Net zero emissions in 2050

To have a 50% chance of limiting the global warming At 1.5 ° C, 1.7 ° C and 2 ° C, the researchers estimate that the remaining ‘carbon budget’ has been reduced to 420 billion tonnes, 770 billion tonnes and 1.27 billion tonnes respectively, which is equivalent to 11, 20 and 32 years with the 2021 emission levels.

“Achieve net zero CO emissions2 by 2050 this means reducing global emissions by about 1.4 billion tonnes each year on average ”, emphasizes Friedlingstein.

To reach net zero by 2050, we must reduce emissions each year by an amount comparable to that recorded during the pandemic.

Pierre Friedlingstein

“Emissions were reduced by 1.9 billion tonnes in 2020, so to reach net zero in 2050, we must reduce emissions each year by an amount comparable to that recorded during the pandemic. This highlights the scale of action that is required now, and hence the importance of the COP26 debates, ”the author emphasizes.

Global CO2 emissions are set to rise 4.9% in 2021 after a record decline of 5.4% in 2020. / Global Carbon Project


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