As countries gather for this year’s United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP25), the 2018 statistics on global carbon emissions have been released and there’s cause to be gravely concerned. Despite renewed promises of change, countless calls for the end of burning of fossil fuels, greener solutions for the transport, agriculture, mining, and energy industries and an increase in the number of electric vehicles on the market, global carbon figures have steadily increased to such a degree that the likelihood of reaching targets laid out for 2030 are appearing insurmountable.
According to the European Commissions’ Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR):
“Global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels combustion and processes further increased by 1.9% in 2018 compared to the previous year, reaching a total of 37.9 Gt CO2. In 2018, China, the United States, India, the EU28, Russia and Japan – the world’s largest CO2 emitters – together accounted for 51% of the population, 65% of global Gross Domestic Product World Bank, 80% of total global fossil fuel consumption and emitted 67.5% of total global fossil CO2.”
Despite claims by India to be significantly reducing its carbon footprint, the report showed that the country’s emissions output had increased 7.2% between 2017 and 2018. Russia had the second highest increase at 3.5%. The US followed closely behind with 2.9% and China with 1.5%. One the other hand, the EU28 and Japan, despite remaining in the top five, have created a slight reduction in emissions, -1.9% and -1.7% respectively.
However, when reviewed on a per capita basis, the EU28 has a higher than world average value of CO2 emissions.
“Compared to 1990, EU28 fossil CO2 emissions were 21.6% lower in 2018 at 3.46 Gt CO2, representing 9.1% of the global share and equivalent to 6.8tCO2/cap/yr in per-capita terms which is above the global per capita average (4.97 t CO2/cap/yr).”
While the EU28 per capita is above the average rate, it is in small contrast to countries like Qatar and Curacao, with per capita ratings of 38 and 34 tCO2/person respectively.
“We are not seeing the kind of action you’d expect from governments facing a climate emergency,” said Prof Niklas Höhne, of Climate Action Tracker partner organization NewClimate Institute. “Since last year’s update, our temperature estimate has not improved from climate action, and many governments are still failing to meet their often insufficient targets.”
In the opening speech of COP25, Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the UN, spoke about his concern for Paris Agreement 2030 deadlines, if countries continue to ignore the roles they play in climate change.
“We stand at a critical juncture in our collective efforts to limit dangerous global heating. By the end of the coming decade we will be on one of two paths. One is the path of surrender, where we have sleepwalked (sic) past the point of no return, jeopardising the health and safety of everyone on this planet…. The other option is the path of hope. A path of resolve, of sustainable solutions…. Where more fossil fuels remain where they should be – in the ground – and where we are on the way to carbon neutrality by 2050.”
Despite pledges by all countries to improve their climate goals by next year, 2020, it appears only Chile has in fact kept this pledge and submitted a full draft proposal.
Calls to end gas and coal burning appears to be falling on deaf ears as countries continue to plan and build new coal plants and fund coal offshore. In particular in regions like China, Japan, and South Korea. In fact, in Kenya, which is on schedule to reach its Paris pledge renewables target, if plans to build a Chinese-funded coal power plant proceed, it will cause its emissions to skyrocket.
For CEO of Climate Analytics, Bill Hare, gas is also a major concern.
“Governments are acting as if this fossil fuel is somehow clean – yet gas was responsible for half the increase in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel consumption in 2017-18, But let’s be clear: for a 1.5˚C pathway, emissions from gas need to peak before 2030, halve by 2040, and be only a tiny part of global electricity demand by 2050.”
There does appear to be a shining light. The number of renewables installed in 2018 has doubled in capacity over the past ten years and is predicted to grow another 50% by 2025. The faith in renewables is a positive sign, however, their implementation needs to accelerate in order to ensure a peak in CO2 emissions and a downward shift towards the agreed 1.5 degree temperature rise. For this to happen, countries need to stop investing in fossil fuels.