The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that carbon emissions from energy use are on track to spike by 1.5 billion tonnes in 2021. Heavy coal consumption in Asia and in China, in particular, outweighs rapid growth in renewable sources, it said in a new report.
Faith Birol, Executive Director IEA, in a statement said this is a dire warning that the economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis is currently anything but sustainable for our climate. “Unless governments around the world move rapidly to start cutting emissions, we are likely to face an even worse situation in 2022.” Birol called it a critical moment to commit to clear and immediate action.
The IEA points out that as countries around the world locked down in 2020 and people were instructed to stay at home to limit COVID-19 infections, emissions fell dramatically. But any climate benefit from the pandemic looks poised to be short-lived. The IEA estimates, as per CNN, that global energy demand will rise by 4.6% in 2021 and exceed 2019 levels, by rising energy use in developing economies and emerging markets.
The growing demand and resurgence in the use of coal is a particular concern, as demand is expected to approach its 2014 peak this year. Experts say China is expected to account for 50% of global demand growth for coal, and use in the US and Europe is rising but expected to stay well below pre-crisis levels.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, earlier this week, called for developed countries to phase out the use of coal by 2030, and for an end to the construction of new coal-fired power plants.
There are also some strong positives for renewable energy. The IEA report says wind, solar and other sustainable forms grew 3% during 2020 and in the power sector, they are expected to grow by 8% this year. Overall, green energy sources will provide 30% of electricity generation, the highest level since the beginning of the industrial revolution.