Carbon dioxide emissions from coal to hit record high on rising electricity demand: IEA

Renewable energy is expanding rapidly but not fast enough to meet the near 5% global increase in electricity demand this year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned this week. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from coal used to generate electricity are set to hit record levels in 2022, the IEA added.

CO2 is one of the greenhouse gases (GHG) that causes global warming; the expected increase in emissions in 2022 would have a negative impact on the reductions agreed in the Paris Agreement aiming to limit global warming.

As the coronavirus pandemic hit in 2020 and demand for energy fell sharply, there were hopes the recovery’s estimated increase for energy would be mostly met with renewable energy.

More than 200 countries agreed in the 2015 Paris Agreement to reduce carbon emissions aiming to limit the rise of global temperatures to 1.5 degree Celsius by 2100, compared to pre-industrial levels.

However, some experts believe the world is on course for a 3-degree-Celsius increase – and the IEA report on electricity would concur with that pessimistic view. As some countries start recovering from the pandemic, global electricity demand is expected to expand by almost 5% in 2021 and 4% in 2022, with China and India accounting for most of the increase.

But most of 2021’s increase, said the IEA, will come from coal – the most polluting of fossil fuels – as pledges from the EU and other countries to phase out coal power plants will not make a dent in emissions for most of the 2020s.

Renewable energy generation, such as hydropower, wind, and solar, is expected to increase by 8% in 2021 and by more than 6% in 2022.

The use of coal for production electricity is also extensive in emerging markets, which will be critical to the global energy transition towards decarbonisation as they recover from the pandemic. “As economies rebound, we’ve seen a surge in electricity generation from fossil fuels. To shift to a sustainable trajectory, we need to massively step up investment in clean energy technologies – especially renewables and energy efficiency”, said Keisuke Sadamori, the IEA director of energy markets and security.

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