Energy & Environment

Carbon emission increases down steeply in 2022: analysis

An aerial view of a coal-fired power station in Lanzhou in northwestern China’s Gansu province on Nov. 12, 2021. (Chinatopix Via AP)

Carbon emissions rose at a significantly slower pace this year than the year before, due largely to increased deployment of renewable energy, according to an analysis by the International Energy Administration (IEA).

Emissions for 2022 are poised to increase about 300 million metric tons, compared to close to 2 billion metric tons last year, according to the IEA. The 2021 increase was largely driven by the rollback of COVID-19-related restrictions and the recovery of the economy. The lack of this sudden burst of activity in 2022 means emissions were always poised to grow by less in 2022, but without the increased use of renewables and electric vehicles, they would have jumped by closer to 1 billion metric tons, according to the IEA.

Solar and wind power drove the growth in renewables this year, comprising a record increase of about 700 terawatt-hours and preventing an increase of more than 600 million metric tons of carbon. Hydropower also increased this year, comprising about 20 percent of renewable growth despite an increase in drought conditions in several regions.

The trajectory of carbon emissions, the primary driver of climate change, had been slowly improving for years before the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2021 return to activity.

Another major contributing factor is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February and the resulting sanctions on Russian natural gas.

“The encouraging news is that solar and wind are filling much of the gap, with the uptick in coal appearing to be relatively small and temporary,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement. “This means that CO2 emissions are growing far less quickly this year than some people feared — and that policy actions by governments are driving real structural changes in the energy economy. Those changes are set to accelerate thanks to the major clean energy policy plans that have advanced around the world in recent months.”

However, the IEA also determined that emissions from coal use specifically are set to rise this year as natural gas prices drive some countries to fall back on coal power. Driven primarily by increases in Asia, global coal-driven emissions are set to increase 2 percent in 2022. Although European Union nations increased their coal use this year, the EU bloc’s total emissions are set to drop in 2022.

Tags carbon emissions IEA International Energy Administration Renewable energy

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