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CO2 emissions reached record high in 2022, says IEA

March 2, 2023

Despite the rise, emissions were still below pre-pandemic levels. The IEA said global energy-related emissions were offset by the use of wind and solar energy, as well as electric vehicles.

Windpark vor RWE Kraftwerk Neurath, Grevenbroich, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Deutschland
The war in Ukraine contributed to a rise in emissions in 2022Image: Rupert Oberhäuser/picture alliance

Energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide hit a record high in 2022, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a report on Thursday.

The report also said the use of wind and solar energy, as well as electric vehicles, had helped to offset the impact of continued burning of coal and oil— avoiding an additional 550 million tons of CO2 emissions last year. 

Despite the jump in renewables, global emissions from energy still rose by 0.9% in 2022 to a record 36.8 billion tons, accounting for more than three-quarters of the production of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

"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 statement.

Emissions still below pre-pandemic levels

The IEA analysis showed that CO2 emissions from oil grew the fastest. They rose by 2.5% but remained below pre-pandemic levels.

About half of the increase in oil-related emissions was due to a rise in air travel, with tourism picking up again following shutdowns during the pandemic.

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The Paris-based watchdog said China's emissions overall were flat last year due to strict COVID-19 measures and declining construction activity. But emissions from other emerging and developing Asian nations rose by 4.2% due to economic growth.

"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," Birol added. "Without clean energy, the growth in CO2 emissions would have been nearly three times as high." 

Fossil fuels rise amid Ukraine war

Carbon dioxide emissions from coal grew by 1.6% last year, according to the IEA. Many European countries have switched to fuels emitting higher levels of pollutants due to the war in Ukraine and subsequent reduction in Russian gas supply. Asian countries also switched to these fuels due to high gas prices.

Scientists say fossil fuel emissions will need to be cut over the coming years to prevent temperatures across the world from rising further.

The IAE's report comes after major fossil fuel producers such as Chevron, Exxon Mobil and Shell posted record profits. BP has also rolled back plans to slash its output of fossil oil and gas. 

"International and national fossil fuel companies are making record revenues and need to take their share of responsibility," Birol said.

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tg/nm  (AFP, Reuters)

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