A First-Of-Its-Kind Magazine On Environment Which Is For Nature, Of Nature, By Us (RNI No.: UPBIL/2016/66220)

Support Us
Magazine Subcription

Emissions bounce back in 2021

TreeTake is a monthly bilingual colour magazine on environment that is fully committed to serving Mother Nature with well researched, interactive and engaging articles and lots of interesting info.

Emissions bounce back in 2021

While emissions of most countries will remain below 2019 levels in 2022, China and India are two major emitter countries which stand out for having significantly larger  emissions...

Emissions bounce back in 2021

Expert Expressions

VN Garg

The writer is former chairperson, UP Forest Corporation; former principal secretary, forest & environment; former chairman, UP Pollution Control Board, and  former Honorary Secretary, Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA), UP Regional Branch     

Greenhouse gas emissions  dipped in 2019  due to the Corona Virus pandemic  and subsequent lockdown. But, in 2021, this dip has nearly reversed. This is in spite of the fact that much of the global economy has not yet fully recovered. The rise in global emissions in 2021 has been notably faster than estimated last year. While global emissions fell by 5.4 % in 2020, they are expected to rise by 4.9 percent by the end of 2021, according to the report released by the Global Carbon Project. The sixteenth  annual Global Carbon Project  (GCP) report says that the world will release 36.4 billion metric  tonnes of carbon dioxide  into the atmosphere by the end of 2021, nearly equal to the 36.7 billion metric tonnes released in 2019.

While emissions of most countries will remain below 2019 levels in 2021, China and India are two major emitter countries which stand out for having significantly larger  emissions. The figures below show the changes in emission in major emitting countries and regions  between 2019and 2020, 2020 and 2021, and between 2019 and 2021.

Change from 2019 to  2021:

US :  -3.7%

EU:  -4.2%

China: +5.5%

India : +4.4%

Change from 2020 to 2021:

US : + 7.6%

EU: +7.6%

China : +4%

India : +12.6%

Change from 2019 to 2020:

1.US: -10.6%

2. EU : -10.9%

3. China : +1.4%

4. India : -7.3%

(Data from the Global Carbon Project)

India’s emissions fell by 7% in 2020 , but grew by 13% in 2021  for an overall increase in  emissions of 4.4%  between 2019 and 2021. While the increase in Indian emissions  between 2019 and 2021 is similar to that of China on a percentage basis, the actual emissions increase in China was approximately five times larger. China stands out as the only major emitting  country to increase its emissions in 2020, reflecting the relatively modest impact of Covid 19 on its economy. Chinese emissions increased by 1.4% between 2019 and 2020, and by 5.5%  between 2019 and 2021, representing the largest contributor to the increase in global emissions. As the GCP points out: “The global growth in fossil CO2 emissions mainly arises from  the growth in coal use in the power and industry sectors in China”. 

By contrast, emissions fell by around 11% in the US, 11% in the EU and 7% in the rest of the world  between 2019 and 2020. They remain 3.7% below  2019 levels in the US in 2021, 4.2% below  2019 levels in the EU and 4.2% below in the rest of the world. Overall, fossil  CO2 emissions are expected to rise by around 4.9% in 2021 with many countries /regions  contributing to the recovery  in emissions from 2020 level.  Global emissions will almost fully rebound, remaining only around 0.8% below 2019’s record levels, and are likely set a new record  for fossil CO2 emissions  in 2022.

Global fossil fuel emissions  primarily result from  the combustion of coal, oil and natural gas. Coal is responsible for more emissions  than any other fossil fuel, representing approximately 41% of global fossil CO2 emissions. Oil is the second largest contributor at 32% of fossil CO2 emissions, while gas rounds out  the pack at  21%. These percentages reflect  both the amount of each fossil fuel consumed globally, but  also differences in  CO2 intensities. Coal results in the most CO2 emitted per unit of heat  or energy produced, followed by oil and natural gas.

The GCP authors caution that  there is a real risk  of global coal use  continuing to grow  and exceeding its 2014 peak in the next few years, given its current rapid growth. This is despite recent progress in restricting  the financing of new coal plants. The most growth in coal capacity  in the next few years is expected to be driven by domestic Indian and Chinese plants. There was  decline in  emissions from  all three fuels in 2020. The  largest drop  of nearly 10 percent was in oil  emissions. This was because  transportation was significantly curtailed  during the height of the pandemic. Coal use also fell by about 4 percent in 2020,while gas use fell by  about 2%.The  emissions due to all the three fuels have rebounded in 2021, with coal emissions up  more than 5%  and both gas and oil emissions up 4%  compared to 2020 levels.

GCP projects that as compared to pre-pandemic emissions  of 2019, 2021 will see 2%  higher gas emissions and 1% higher coal emissions  for electricity and industry. Oil emissions are likely remained nearly 6% below pre-pandemic levels, reflecting  slow changes to transportation use. Emissions in 2021 remain slightly below  their pre-pandemic 2019  peak in large part due to persistent declines  in oil use following the pandemic. The scientists  said next year could set  a new record for global emissions as travel  and crude oil use increase. The recent 2021 WEO (World Energy Outlook) projects that global emissions  will rebound past  2019 levels  by 2022 or 2023.

World leaders are trying  to work out strategies to prevent a global average temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius, which is the threshold necessary for avoiding the worst  impacts of climate change. However, the report estimates that this milestone will be surpassed in just 11 years at the current rate of pollution. To achieve net-zero by 2050 , we must cut emissions every year by an amount comparable to that seen during Covid.

Over the past decade, global CO2 net emissions  from land-use change  were 4.1 billion tonnes, with 14.1 billion tonnes CO2 emitted by deforestation and other land-use changes , and 9.9 billion tonnes CO2 removed by re-growth of forests  and soil recovery. Removals  by forests and soils  have grown in the last two  decades  while emissions by deforestation  and other land-use changes  remained relatively stable, suggesting a recent decline  in net emissions from land-use change, although with a large attached uncertainty.

When combining CO2 emissions from fossil sources and net land-use change, total emissions have remained relatively  constant in the last decade, averaging 39.7 billion tonnes CO2. Reaching net zero CO2 emissions by 2050  entails cutting global CO2 emissions by about  1.4 billion tonnes each year. Emissions fell by 1.9 billion tonnes in 2020. So, to achieve net zero by 2050 ,  we must cut emissions every year by an amount comparable to  that seen during COVID. This highlights the importance of COP26 discussions. Let us hope that all the major emitter countries  will take all possible steps to cut emissions to reach the goal of net zero by 2050.


Leave a comment