IEA: Global CO2 emissions rising again after ‘unprecedented’ fall in 2020

In December 2020, global emissions were 2% higher than they were in the same month a year earlier, new report finds

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Global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are rising again after an unprecedented fall last year.

That’s according to the latest report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), which estimates global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions fell by 5.8% in 2020, the largest annual percentage decline since World War II.

Around two million tonnes less of carbon dioxide were emitted last year, the equivalent of removing all of the European Union’s emissions from the global total, the study finds.

However, the report suggests carbon dioxide emission started to rebound towards the end of the year – in December, global emissions were 2% higher than they were in the same month a year earlier.

While most economies recorded a decline of 5% to 10% in 2020, China was the only major economy that saw an increase in annual carbon dioxide emissions, which rose 0.8% above 2019 levels, equalling an additional 75 million tonnes.

The IEA also notes emissions in India rose above 2019 levels in September as economic activity increased and restrictions were relaxed.

The data shows US emissions fell by 10% in 2020, but after hitting their lowest levels in April and May, they started to bounce back.

Dr Fatih Birol, IEA Executive Director, said: “The rebound in global carbon emissions toward the end of last year is a stark warning that not enough is being done to accelerate clean energy transitions worldwide.

“If governments don’t move quickly with the right energy policies, this could put at risk the world’s historic opportunity to make 2019 the definitive peak in global emissions.

“This year is pivotal for international climate action and it began with high hopes but these latest numbers are a sharp reminder of the immense challenge we face in rapidly transforming the global energy system.”

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