Global carbon pollution hits record high even as renewables surge

Story by Reuters

CNN  —  Global carbon pollution from energy hit a record high last year, driven partly by increased fossil fuel use in countries where droughts restricted hydropower production, according to an International Energy Agency (IEA) report published Thursday.

Steep cuts in carbon emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels, will be needed in the coming years if targets to limit a global rise in temperatures and prevent runaway climate change are to be met, scientists have said.

“Far from falling rapidly — as is required to meet the global climate goals set out in the Paris Agreement — CO2 emissions reached a new record high,” the IEA said in the report.

Global emissions from energy rose by 410 million metric tons, or 1.1 percent, in 2023 to 37.4 billion metric tons, the IEA analysis showed.

A global expansion in clean technology such as wind, solar and electric vehicles, helped to reduce the rate of emissions growth, which was 1.3 percent in 2022. But a reopening of China’s economy, increased fossil fuel use in countries with low hydropower output and a recovery in the aviation sector led to an overall rise, the IEA said in its report.

Moves to replace lost hydropower generation due to extreme droughts accounted for around 40 percent of the emissions rise, or 170 million tonnes of CO2, it said.

“Without this effect, emissions from the global electricity sector would have fallen in 2023,” the IEA said.

Energy-related emissions in the United States fell by 4.1 percent, with the bulk of the reduction coming from the electricity sector, according to the report.

In the European Union, emissions from energy fell by almost 9 percent last year, driven by a surge in renewable power generation and a slump in both coal and gas power generation.

In China, emissions from energy rose by 5.2 percent, with energy demand growing as the country recovered from COVID-19-related lockdowns, the report said.

China, however, also contributed around 60 percent of global additions of solar, wind power and electric vehicles in 2023, the IEA said.

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