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CO2 emissions from energy hit record high in 2018

March 26, 2019

The world has seen an "extraordinary increase" in energy demand last year, driving energy-related emissions to a new record. The International Energy Agency (IEA) warned that "urgent action is needed on all fronts."

Coal power plant in China
Image: picture alliance/dpa

Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the production of energy reached a new record in 2018, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a report on Tuesday.

CO2 emissions are the main driving force behind global warming, which scientists fear could spiral out of control unless drastic action is taken to reduce global emissions.

The IEA's key findings:

  • Energy-related CO2 pollution rose by 1.7 percent to hit 33.1 billion tons in 2018.
  • CO2 emissions increased in China (+2.5 percent), the US (+3.1 percent), and India (+4.5 percent). Europe's emissions fell by 1.3 percent.
  • The rise was fueled by a 2.3 percent increase in demand for energy worldwide.
  • Almost 70 percent of that hike was caused by the burning of fossil fuels like oil, coal, and gas.
  • The use of coal, the most CO2-intense fuel, rose by 0.7 percent, mostly because of Asian countries.
  • Solar energy generation grew by more than 30 percent. Wind power also grew significantly.

Read more: CO2 emissions projected to hit historic highs in 2018

What is your personal CO2 balance?

Coal in Asia is undermining Paris

"Despite the major growth in renewables, global emissions are still rising, demonstrating once again that more urgent action is needed on all fronts," IEA executive director Fatih Birol said.

In the 2015 Paris accord, nearly every country pledged to work together to limit global warming to under 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial levels.

"Whilst not impossible, if we do not address the emissions of coal power plants in Asia, to comply with our climate goals will be extremely challenging," IEA's Fatih Birol told the AFP news agency.

Hot future: The world is already 1 degree Celsius warmer that it was before industrialization and temperatures are currently predicted to rise by 4 degrees.

Swapping fossil fuels for recycled CO2

What needs to be done? Experts at the UN have warned that global CO2 emissions would need to drop by half before 2030 to avoid catastrophic climate change. Only a complete overhaul of the global economy and consumer habits would achieve this, according to the global body.

Danger hidden in permafrost: Many scientists fear a domino effect if temperatures keep climbing. Arctic permafrost would start melting, leading to a vicious circle as large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane would be released that in turn increase the rate of global warming.

dj/amp (Reuters, AFP)

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