Global Carbon Emissions Are Rising as China & India Increase Coal Use

Global Carbon Emissions Are Rising as China & India Increase Coal Use
Credit: Reuters / Jason Lee
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A sobering report was just released at the COP24 global climate summit in Poland.

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By Soumya Sarkar

In a sobering report released by the Global Carbon Project during the annual UN climate summit being held in Poland, Chinese and Indian emissions were identified as the key drivers in global emissions. After a brief lull in growth, fossil carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming are likely to rise by as much as 2.7 percent in 2018 after expanding by 1.6 percent last year. The projected rise is driven by “solid growth” in coal use for the second year in a row, and “sustained growth” in oil and gas use.

This development comes after three years of little or no growth and is reminiscent of the decade ending 2013 (known as the year of peak coal), when emissions grew by over 3 percent every year. That peak could be surpassed if coal use continues to rise in China and India.

Power-plant
Credit: Vikramdeep Sidhu / Flickr
India may have to shutter its coal plants before the end of their economic lives.

This also contrasts strongly with the aspirations of the two countries to be seen as climate leaders, a role that the global community has been urging them towards, especially as the U.S. has moved away from that position under the leadership of President Donald Trump.

The spurt could compromise the aims of the Paris climate pact to keep temperatures “well within” 2 degrees Celsius, even as the annual UN climate summit meets in the col mining city of Katowice in Poland to devise a rulebook or guidelines to implement the Paris Agreement.

The additional emissions will add 2.3 ppm of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere to reach 407 ppm by the end of 2018, which is 45 percent above pre-industrial levels.

IPCC report

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has recently warned in a special report that to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, “rapid, far reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” is required. The world has only dozen years to stay within 1.5 degrees, climate scientists have said, and just half a degree more will significantly worsen risks of extreme heat, storms, floods and droughts for millions of people.

The IPCC has said that to limit warming well below 2 degrees Celsius, carbon emissions have to decline by about 20 percent by 2030, and reach “net zero” around 2075; to keep warming below 1.5 degrees, CO2 emissions should decline by 50 percent by 2030 and reach net zero around 2050. Current commitments by national government will lead to more than 3 degrees of warming by the end of the century, which will have catastrophic effects, the IPCC says.

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Credit: Pixabay
Oil use is up around the world due to a rise in emissions from transport.

“Emissions need to peak and rapidly decrease to address climate change,” said Corinne Le Quéré, lead researcher of the Global Carbon Budget 2018. “With this year’s growth in emissions, it looks like the peak is not yet in sight.”

Oil use is growing strongly in most regions including the U.S. and Europe, driven up by the rise in emissions from transport, the report said. The growth in renewables is yet to offset expansion in fossil energy and besides energy, decarbonization has to happen with transport, buildings and industry as well, it said. The goal of reaching a decarbonized economy by 2050 seems far-fetched today.

“The growing global demand for energy is outpacing decarbonization for now. This needs to change, and change quickly to address climate change,” said Le Quéré, who teaches climate change science and policy at the University of East Anglia in the UK. “We need strong policy and economic support for rapid deployment of low carbon technologies to cut emissions across the energy and transport sectors, from buildings and from industry.”

The rise in CO2 emissions in 2018 is being also driven by increased coal use in China and India, the report revealed. Global coal use is still 3 percent lower than its historical high in 2013, but if the return to growth in the past two years keeps up, the 2013 peak will soon be passed.

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Credit: Reuters / Stringer
Piles of imported coal are seen at a coal terminal of a port in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, China, July 26, 2018.

China’s emissions, accounting for 27 percent of global emissions, look set to grow about 4.7 percent in 2018, reaching a new all-time high. Emissions from coal use are projected to grow about 4.5 percent to almost surpass coal’s 2013 peak in the country.

India’s emissions account for 7 percent of global emissions, and will grow strongly by about 6.3 percent in 2018, with use increasing with all fossil fuels. While it is aggressively adding solar and wind power capacity, coal consumption continues to climb. However, coal-fired power stations have been operating well short of capacity and further addition has stalled.

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The News Lens has been authorized to republish this article. The piece was first published by thethirdpole.net, a website that tracks Asia’s water crisis.

TNL Editor: Nick Aspinwall (@Nick1Aspinwall)

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