Global CO2 emissions rebound to pre-health crisis levels

The Covid-19 pandemic will have had minimal, if not zero, effect in the fight against climate change. Global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) fell 5.4% in 2020, due to lockdowns and part of the economy shutting down – the biggest drop since World War II. But they should rebound this year (+ 4.9%) to get closer to their levels before the health crisis. This is what emerges from the annual report of the Global Carbon Project, a consortium of around 100 scientists from 70 international laboratories working on the carbon cycle, the results of which are unveiled on Thursday, November 4. This is yet another warning for the 196 countries gathered at the 26e United Nations climate conference in Glasgow.

“The world is not taking the path of reducing emissions. However, the longer we wait, the more rapid and drastic their decrease will have to be to achieve carbon neutrality and stabilize global warming ”, warns Philippe Ciais, research director at the Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Sciences and one of the authors of the study. Especially since, according to the researchers, an increase in emissions in 2022 cannot be excluded if road transport and aviation return to pre-pandemic levels and if the use of coal remains stable.

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This study, which should be soon published in the journal Earth System Science Data, concludes that the CO emissions2 related to the combustion of fossil fuels as well as industry and cement works should reach 36.4 billion tonnes in 2021, against 34.8 billion in 2020. Adding emissions linked to deforestation and other changes in land use (destruction of meadows, etc.) – estimates of which are more uncertain – the total balance amounted to 39 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2020, an increase of 40% since 1990.

“Insufficient investments”

Involved in the strong rebound: an increase in energy consumption, driven by fossils. Coal, the primary source of CO2, is experiencing strong growth (+ 6%), as is gas, and both are expected to exceed their 2019 levels. Only oil consumption, which is also increasing, is expected to remain below pre-Covid levels this year. “Renewable energies still represent a small fraction of global energy production, note Philippe Ciais. They held up well during the health crisis but their relative share fell a little in 2021. The battle between fossil fuels and low carbon energies will be crucial for the future of emissions. “

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Global CO2 emissions rebound to pre-health crisis levels