Global energy demand increased by 2.1% in 2017 at more than twice the previous year’s rate at the same time that carbon emissions increased for the first time since 2014, jumping by 1.4%.
These are the two key messages from the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) newest resource, the Global Energy and CO2 Status Report, 2017, which was published on Thursday, providing what the IEA describes as “an up-to-date snapshot of recent trends and developments across all fuels.”
“The robust global economy pushed up energy demand last year, which was mostly met by fossil fuels, while renewables made impressive strides,” explained Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director. “The significant growth in global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2017 tells us that current efforts to combat climate change are far from sufficient. For example, there has been a dramatic slowdown in the rate of improvement in global energy efficiency as policymakers have put less focus in this area.”
According to the IEA, energy demand rose by 2.1% in 2017 thanks in large part to strong global economic growth. As Birol suggested, fossil fuels met most of the increase in demand for energy — accounting for 81% of total energy demand in 2017 — but the IEA did note that renewables were “seeing impressive gains.” Oil demand increased by 1.6% in 2017, more than twice the average annual rate seen over the past decade, and driven primarily by the transport sector and rising petrochemical demand. Natural gas consumption increased by 3%, the most of all the fossil fuels, with China accounting for nearly a third of this growth, and the buildings and industry sectors contributing 80% to the increase in global demand. Coal demand only increased by 1%, but this still nevertheless reversed the declines seen over the last two years.
Renewable electricity generation increased by 6.3%, the most of any fuel, and met a quarter of world energy demand growth, thanks to massive expansions to wind, solar, and hydropower.
Average annual growth in energy demand by fuel
Emissions for 2017 increased for the first time since 2014, growing by 1.4% and an increase of 460 million tonnes (Mt), reaching an unfortunately historic high level of 32.5 gigatonnes. This followed three years of flat emissions and is a worrying sign in a world where emissions are needed to decline if we are to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.
According to the IEA, 2017’s increase in emissions was the equivalent of adding 170 million cars to the roads and was the result of “robust global economic growth of 3.7%, lower fossil-fuel prices, and weaker energy efficiency efforts” all of which also led to the aforementioned increase in energy demand.
Global energy-related CO2 emissions, 2000-2017
Thankfully, though there was an overall emissions increase, that does not mean there were not more regional emissions declines. While many major economies saw their emissions increase, there were declines in the United States, the UK, Mexico, and Japan. Surprisingly — if we consider the state of the world and the country — the United States actually posted the largest emissions decrease of 0.5%, or 25 Mt, down to 4,810 Mt.
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