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Worldwide carbon emissions reached their highest levels in world history last year as much of the planet doubled down on fossil fuels even as Western nations pushed a transition toward renewable energy.
Emissions of carbon dioxide rose 0.9% in 2022 after increasing at a record 6% in 2021, according to an analysis from the International Energy Agency. Coal emissions rose 1.6% as the worldwide energy shortage induced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine caused nations in Asia and Europe to pivot from natural gas to coal power, while oil emissions rose 2.5% as the aviation industry continued to recover following governmental lockdown mandates.
International Energy Agency Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement that the rise in carbon dioxide emissions occurred despite the worldwide increase in green energy usage. He noted that “fossil fuel companies are making record revenues and need to take their share of responsibility” by aligning themselves with “meaningful emissions reductions.”
The Asia Pacific with the exception of China increased emissions by 229 megatons between 2021 and 2022, far exceeding the 100 megaton increase in North America and canceling out the 138 megaton reduction in Europe. “Over half of the region’s increase in emissions came from coal-fired power generation,” the analysis said.
The decreased emissions in Europe came as a result of disrupted oil and natural gas supplies from Russia, which resulted in a tenfold increase in energy prices compared to normal levels, and a mild winter during which citizens used less power for heating than usual. Countries such as France and Spain have asked or mandated residents to reduce energy consumption. The emissions growth in the United States and Asia came amid extreme temperatures in the former and “rapid economic and energy demand growth” in the latter.
China, which only recently eliminated its aggressive nationwide lockdown mandates, saw a 23 megaton reduction in emissions last year. The nation was responsible for 26.1% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions as of 2018, according to data from the International Energy Agency, surpassing the 13.4% of worldwide emissions produced by the United States and the 7.6% of worldwide emissions produced by members of the European Union.
Chinese authorities nevertheless approved 106 gigawatts of new coal power projects in 2022, more than quadrupling the 23 gigawatts approved in 2021 and sextupling the increases planned by the rest of the world combined, according to an analysis from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.
Skeptics of governments which encourage the renewable energy transition have observed that higher emissions from China, as well as India and developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa, are outpacing emissions declines in the West. Western nations have nevertheless advanced landmark climate bills in recent years to decrease their carbon emissions.
The European Union approved €1.8 trillion, the equivalent of roughly $1.9 trillion, with the European Green Deal three years ago in order to make member states climate neutral by 2050. Some $369 billion in climate initiatives was likewise approved in the Inflation Reduction Act last year; President Joe Biden said that the legislation would make “the largest investment ever in combating the existential crisis of climate change” and create jobs through the manufacturing of “solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicles.”