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After three flat years global carbon emissions, carbon emissions are now on the rise again, hitting the highest ever at 32.5 gigatons. This was a 1.4-percent annual increase, the International Energy agency said in its 2018 Global Energy and CO2 Status Report.
The increase comes as a surprise to many given the major push into renewables in many parts of the world. Indeed, some of these parts saw a decline in CO2 emissions, notably the United States, the IEA said, as well as the UK, Japan, and Mexico.
Still, energy demand grew in other parts of the globe, driving increased use of fossil fuels. Crude oil demand grew by 1.6 percent last year, which should be quite disheartening for environmentalists, as this growth rate was twice as high as the annual average for the last ten years.
The main culprits were, unsurprisingly, the two powerhouses of Asia: China and India, which drove the 2.1-percent increase in global energy demand. That compared with 0.9 percent a year earlier – the average annual energy demand growth rate for the five years to 2015.
This energy demand growth was too fast for renewables to be able to respond to it in a more substantial way: fossil fuels accounted for 72 percent of the higher energy demand, versus 25 percent for renewables. China and India together accounted for 40 percent of the higher energy demand.
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China did well on the renewables front, though. Together with the United States, it contributed around half of all new renewable energy capacity. The European Union came third, followed by India and Japan. The increase in renewable energy generation capacity last year was the highest among energy sources, with wind alone accounting for 36 percent of the total additional capacity.
On the flip side, improvements in energy efficiency slowed down in 2017, the IEA said, blaming it on slower pro-efficiency policy adoption and stringency, and lower energy costs, discouraging advancement in efficiency improvements.
Unfortunately, the IEA’s figures support the argument that the Paris Agreement targets are unrealistic unless a radical global change in energy policies is enacted. The chances of this happening, however, are remote.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.