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IEA: COVID recovery plans will produce record emissions

July 20, 2021

The International Energy Agency says just 2% of pandemic recovery finance is being spent on clean energy.

Factory in Germany
Carbon emissions are set to hit record levels by 2023Image: picture-alliance/S. Ziese

Pandemic recovery plans will come at a substantial environmental cost, with carbon emissions set to hit an all-time high by 2023, according to a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) published on Tuesday.

With just 2% of pandemic recovery finance being spent on clean energy, governments are not delivering on what they promised, according to Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director.

"Since the COVID-19 crisis erupted, many governments may have talked about the importance of building back better for a cleaner future, but many of them are yet to put their money where their mouth is," Birol said. "Despite increased climate ambitions, the amount of economic recovery funds being spent on clean energy is just a small sliver of the total."

Countries have allocated more than $16 trillion (€14 trillion) in fiscal help throughout the pandemic, mostly in the form of emergency aid for workers and businesses.

But the IEA's Sustainable Recovery Tracker found that just $380 billion of this funding had been provided for clean energy projects.

Developing countries to suffer most

"The sums of money, both public and private, being mobilized worldwide by recovery plans fall well short of what is needed to reach international climate goals," the report stated. "These shortfalls are particularly pronounced in emerging and developing economies."

"Under governments' current recovery spending plans, global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are set to climb to record levels in 2023 and continue rising in the following years. This would leave the world far from the pathway to net-zero emissions by 2050 that the IEA set out in its recent Global Roadmap to Net Zero."

Overall carbon pollution would be 3.5 billion tons higher than a scenario in which economies are compliant with the 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) temperature goal of the Paris climate agreement, the IEA analysis revealed.

The United Nations says that to keep the temperature target, there needs to be an annual reduction of 7% in emissions through 2030.

Crisis hits Germany and North America

Although pandemic lockdowns and travel restrictions saw carbon pollution fall briefly last year, concentrations of planet-warming gases in Earth's atmosphere are still on the rise.

With record-breaking heatwaves witnessed in North America and parts of northern Europe submerged in unprecedented flooding, the impacts of climate change are hitting even developed economies harder than ever before.

AFP contributed to this article.

John Silk Editor and writer for English news, as well as the Culture and Asia Desks.@JSilk