Global energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide hit a record high last year, although more clean technology such as solar power and electric vehicles helped limit the impact of increased coal and oil use, the International Energy Agency has said.
Deep cuts in emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels, will be needed over the coming years if targets to limit a global rise in temperatures and prevent runaway climate change are to be met, scientists have said.
“We still see emissions growing from fossil fuels, hindering efforts to meet the world’s climate targets,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a release alongside the report.
The report by the Paris-based watchdog comes just weeks after major fossil fuel producers such as Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell reported record profits, with BP also rowing back on plans to slash oil and gas output and reduce emissions.
“International and national fossil fuel companies are making record revenues and need to take their share of responsibility,” Mr Birol said.
Global emissions from energy rose by 0.9% in 2022 to a record 36.8 billion tonnes, the IEA analysis showed.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from coal grew by 1.6% last year with many countries turning to the more polluting fuel after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a reduction in Russian gas supply to Europe sparked record high gas prices.
CO2 emissions from oil rose by 2.5% but remained below pre-pandemic levels, the report said.
Around half of the increase in oil-related emissions was due to a rise in air travel which was rebounding from a low during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Lower output from nuclear power plants and extreme weather events including heatwaves also contributed to the increase in energy related emissions, the IEA said.
Emissions were partly offset, however, by a rise in renewable power sources like wind and solar, energy efficiency measures and electric vehicles.
These avoided an additional 550 million tonnes of CO2 emissions last year, the IEA said.
“The impacts of the energy crisis didn’t result in the major increase in global emissions that was initially feared – and this is thanks to the outstanding growth of renewables, EVs, heat pumps and energy-efficient technologies,” Mr Birol said.
“Without clean energy, the growth in CO2 emissions would have been nearly three times as high,” he added.
The Paris-based IEA said China’s emissions overall were flat last year due to strict Covid-19 measures and declining construction activity, which led to weaker economic growth and reductions in industrial and transport emissions.
But excluding China, emissions from emerging and developing economies in Asia increased 4.2% due to their rapid economic growth and rising demand for energy.
Mr Birol also took a swipe at fossil fuel companies, which he noted were making record revenues thanks to the jump in energy prices.
“We still see emissions growing from fossil fuels, hindering efforts to meet the world’s climate targets,” he said.
Fossil fuel companies “need to take their share of responsibility, in line with their public pledges to meet climate goals,” Mr Birol said, urging them to review their strategies in order to produce “meaningful emissions reductions”.