Global greenhouse gas emissions on record course after pandemic

The global emissions of carbon dioxide from the combustion of coal, oil and gas should almost reach the pre-crisis level again this year after the decline in 2020 due to the corona pandemic. If the trends continue and road and air traffic also return to their old level, there could even be a new high in 2022, regardless of all climate protection promises, shows an analysis by the research group “Global Carbon Project” published on Thursday.

In fact, total CO2 emissions would have to decrease by 1.4 billion tons every year in order to achieve the goal of net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. In the Corona year it was minus 1.9 billion tons. The world is now far from achieving the goal.

In order to have a 50 percent chance of limiting the rise in global mean temperature to 1.5 degrees above the pre-industrial level, a total of only 420 billion tons of CO2 should be emitted in the future. With emissions like 2021, this budget would be used up in around eleven years.

According to the calculations, fossil CO2 emissions are likely to be 36.4 billion tons this year. That is about 4.9 percent more than in 2020 and it is almost as much as in the pre-pandemic year 2019 (36.7 billion tons according to the latest figures). In 2020, the volume fell by around 5.4 percent due to the temporary decline in industry, air travel and other traffic. There are various estimates for this. The World Weather Organization WMO speaks of a 5.6 percent decline.

In addition to fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, CO2 emissions also come from forest destruction. At the same time, however, forests absorb a lot of CO2. In net terms, these CO2 emissions are only around a tenth of those from fossil fuels.

According to the report, the increase in fossil emissions this year was mainly driven by the growing use of coal in China. In other countries, too, including India, the growing demand for energy will continue to be met by fossil fuels. In contrast, the multi-year trend with falling CO2 emissions in the USA and the EU continues. The expansion of renewable energies was unbroken in 2020.

The development of the four largest greenhouse gas emitters compared to 2019: Calculated according to the preliminary data up to the end of October, fossil emissions will increase in China and India this year, while they will decrease in the USA and the EU. In China, the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, it should be plus 5.5 percent compared to 2019. In India, the fourth largest polluter, plus 4.4 percent. In the USA, minus 3.7 percent compared to 2019 is expected, in the EU minus 4.2 percent.

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