Global clean energy growth offset rise in CO2 emissions last year, IEA says

LADWPs Pine Tree Wind Farm and Solar Power Plant in the Tehachapi Mountains on Tuesday, March 23, 2021 in Kern County, CA.

Irfan Khan | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

Global energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide rose less than anticipated in 2022 thanks to the growth of clean energy sources like solar, wind, electric vehicles and heat pumps, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said Thursday.

Global emissions from energy rose by less than 1% last year to a new high of over 36.8 billion tons, as renewables helped limit the impacts of a global rise in coal and oil consumption, according to the IEA analysis. By comparison, global emissions from energy rose by 6% in 2021.

The agency’s analysis comes amid a major disruption within global energy markets following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February.

“The impacts of the energy crisis didn’t result in the major increase in global emissions that was initially feared,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement. “This is thanks to the outstanding growth of renewables, EVs, heat pumps and energy efficient technologies.”

Without the clean energy growth, the rise in emissions last year would have been nearly three times as high, the IEA said. Still, the agency warned that emissions remain on an unsustainable growth trajectory and urged for stronger action to transition away from fossil fuels.

“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,” Birol said. “It’s critical that they review their strategies to make sure they’re aligned with meaningful emissions reductions.”

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Emissions from natural gas fell by 1.6% last year as an already tight gas supply was exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the following widespread trade disruptions, the report found. But a 1.6% rise in emissions from coal offset the declines in natural gas.

Additionally, emissions from oil rose by 2.5%, with about half of that increase coming from the aviation sector as air travel continued to rebound from the pandemic, the report found. On the other hand, EVs continued to gain momentum last year, with more than 10 million cars sold, exceeding 14% of global car sales.

The biggest increase in emissions in 2022 came from the electricity and heat generation sector, which saw emissions rise by 1.8%. Extreme weather events including droughts and heatwaves, along with an unusually large number of nuclear power plants being offline, were among factors that contributed to last year’s emissions rise, the IEA said.

In the United States, emissions grew by 0.8% as buildings increased their energy consumption to endure extreme temperatures, while in the European Union emissions were 2.5% lower.

China’s emissions were broadly flat last year as strict Covid-19 measures and declining construction activity prompted declines in industrial and transportation activity.

Last year, the IEA said the global energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked unprecedented momentum for renewables and projected that renewables will become the world’s largest source of electricity generation by 2025.

IEA chief Fatih Birol, Greta Thunberg and other youth activists discuss the climate crisis at Davos
Source: CNBC