A record level of CO2 emissions of fossil origin expected for 2022

After the air hole due to Covid, CO2 emissions produced by the consumption of fossil fuels – oil, gas or coal – will exceed their record level in 2022, according to a study by the Global carbon project published Friday in the journal Earth Systems Science Data on the occasion of the international climate conference COP27.

Total emissions of this greenhouse gas, the main cause of global warming, including those produced by deforestation, will almost return to 2019 levels, according to scientists.

In comparison: CO2 emissions down 7% in 2020, a record

Fossil CO2 emissions are “expected to increase by 1% compared to 2021, to reach 36.6 billion tonnes, slightly above 2019 levels before Covid-19”, according to their calculations. This increase is mainly driven by the use of oil (+2.2%), with the resumption of air traffic, and coal (+1%). Emissions from coal, which have been declining since 2014, should return to or even exceed their record level of that year. “There is the conjunction of two factors, the continuation of the post-Covid recovery and the energy crisis” after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, explains to AFP Glen Peters, one of the authors of the study. .

One in two chance of maintaining the objective

The GCP team, which brings together more than 100 scientists from 80 institutions, calculates CO2 emissions each year, as well as the remaining “carbon budget”, the upper limit of carbon dioxide emitted to remain below a given global temperature. .

Also read: Fossil energy reserves contain 3.5 trillion tonnes of CO2, according to an unprecedented inventory

This temperature is in fact linked to the concentration of this powerful greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. Concentration which has increased by 51% since the beginning of the industrial era, when we began to burn fossil fuels in large quantities, underlines the study.

Scientists can thus translate the remaining “budget” into duration to meet the objectives of the Paris agreement, the cornerstone of the fight against global warming. At the current rate of “spending” of this budget, there is only one chance in two of achieving the most ambitious objective in nine years, limiting global warming to 1.5°C. Greenhouse gas emissions would have to fall by 45% by 2030 to have a chance of achieving this. At 30, there is a one in two chance of meeting the less ambitious target of +2°C, and at 18 for +1.7°C.

“We have made some progress,” notes climatologist Corinne Le Quéré, another author of the report, who points out that the trend increase in emissions from fossil fuels has gone from around 3% per year in the 2000s to 0.5 % per year over the last decade. “We have shown that climate policy works. But only concerted action on the level of that carried out against the Covid can bend the curve, ”she insisted.

Natural carbon sinks impacted

Among the world’s biggest polluters, the rebound in fossil emissions will be strongest in India in 2022, up 6% mainly due to coal consumption amid a strong economic recovery. The United States recorded +1.5%. China, which is expected to end at -0.9%, saw a sharp drop at the start of the year with the zero-Covid lockdowns and the construction crisis, although the summer heat wave has then caused a decline in hydroelectricity and a rise in coal.

The European Union, plunged into an energy crisis by the invasion of Ukraine, is expected to register -0.8%, with gas-related emissions collapsing by 10% and coal-related emissions jumping by 6.7%, against +0.9% for oil. The rest of the world is expected to see an increase of 1.7%, mainly fueled by the recovery of air transport.

Non-fossil emissions, around 10% of the total and mainly due to deforestation, are down slightly.

And global warming is already affecting natural carbon sinks, which play a vital role in mitigating it. The absorption of CO2 by terrestrial sinks was thus reduced by approximately 17% and that by the oceans by 4% during the decade 2012-21.

Read again: How to stop global warming?

Due to the multiple crises, 2022 will not be a typical year from which we can draw obvious lessons, underline the authors. The 1% increase may not be “a long-term trend”, believes Corinne Le Quéré. But “emissions are not falling as they should.”

Leave a Comment