Declines in greenhouse gas emissions seen during the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic were a “temporary blip” and emissions are rapidly returning to pre-pandemic levels, according to a United Nations-backed report released Thursday.
The World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) United in Science 2021 report found that while emissions reductions last year likely resulted in lower annual growth of greenhouse gas concentration, the drop was no more than natural fluctuations.
The WMO also found that overall, the concentration of all major greenhouse gases increased in 2020 and the first half of 2021. In the first seven months of 2021, emissions reached at least the same level or higher as the same period in 2019 in the energy and industry sectors. Emissions specifically from road transportation were 5 percent lower in the same period, according to the report. Other than aviation and sea transport, global emissions averaged the same levels during that seven-month period.
While a short-term cut to atmospheric methane could put Paris climate agreement nations back on course to achieving its goals, “this does not reduce the need for strong, rapid and sustained reductions in CO2 and other greenhouse gases,” the WMO said in a statement.
President BidenJoe BidenOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by American Clean Power — Methane fee faces negotiations White House rejects latest Trump claim of executive privilege The No Surprises Act: a bill long overdue MORE in June signed bipartisan legislation that rolled back looser Trump-era rules on methane emissions. On Friday, the president is set to meet virtually with other world leaders, where he is expected to urge them to sign on to methane-emission reduction goals.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that nations are “significantly off-schedule” from the Paris agreement’s goals Thursday at the launch of the report.
“This year has seen fossil fuel emissions bounce back, greenhouse gas concentrations continuing to rise and severe human-enhanced weather events that have affected health, lives and livelihoods on every continent,” Guterres wrote in the report’s foreword. “Unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to 1.5°C will be impossible, with catastrophic consequences for people and the planet on which we depend.”
The WMO report follows an August report from Ember, a London-based think tank, which found emissions were 5 percent higher in the first half of 2021 than in 2019.