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Global carbon emissions rose an ‘unsustainable’ two percent in 2018: study

June 12, 2019

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Global carbon emissions grew by 2.0 per cent last year, the highest rate since 2010-2011, a closely-watched review by energy giant BP said on Tuesday, calling the trend “unsustainable”. — AFP/File
Global carbon emissions grew by 2.0 per cent last year, the highest rate since 2010-2011, a closely-watched review by energy giant BP said on Tuesday, calling the trend “unsustainable”. — AFP/File

LONDON: Global carbon emissions grew by 2.0 per cent last year, the highest rate since 2010-2011, a closely-watched review by energy giant BP said on Tuesday, calling the trend “unsustainable”.

“There is a growing mismatch between societal demands for action on climate change and the actual pace of progress, with energy demand and carbon emissions growing at their fastest rate for years,” said BP chief executive Bob Dudley. “The world is on an unsustainable path,” he said.

The BP Statistical Review of World Energy is viewed as an energy industry standard, pooling data on everything from the size of countries’ oil reserves to their production of renewable energy and various consumption rates.

Growth in demand

It found that global energy demand grew by 2.9 per cent. Part of that rise was met by booming shale rock reserve exploitation in the United States, which recorded the fastest rise of oil and natural gas production in the world, the report said.

Governments across the world are coming under intensifying pressure from campaigners to set deadlines by which they will cut their net greenhouse emissions to zero.

Britain’s top advisory body on climate change has recommended that the government target 2050, the same date eyed by some other European governments.

The progressive wing of the US Congress is pushing for 2030, although most analysts view the target as unattainable and prohibitively expensive to reach.

The BP report found that while the use of renewable forms of energy grew by 14.5 per cent in 2018, it still accounted for just a third of the total rise in power generation last year.

This meant that a focus on “green” forms of energy would not be able to achieve net-zero targets, with governments instead having to do more to cut the use of polluting coal and oil, Dudley said.

“This is not a race to renewables, but a race to reduce carbon emissions across many fronts, “Dudley said.

Losing the battle

Extreme temperatures around the globe drove a sharp acceleration in energy demand and carbon emissions last year, the oil giant said, issuing a stark warning that the world risks losing the battle against climate change.

The 2.9 per cent rise in energy demand in 2018, the fastest rate since 2010, deals a blow to global efforts to meet the 2015 UN-backed Paris climate agreement to limit global warming by sharply reducing carbon emissions by the end of the century.

China, India and the United States accounted for around two-thirds of the growth in energy demand. In the United States, demand rose by 3.5 per cent, the fastest rate in 30 years following a decade of declines.

And as energy consumption grew, greenhouse gas emissions caused by burning of fossil fuels, which account for around two-thirds of total emissions, rose last year by 2 per cent.

“It’s clear we’re on an unstable path with carbon emissions rising at their fastest rate since 2011,” Dale said in a briefing ahead of the release of the report.

London-based BP and its rival oil and gas companies have faced growing pressure from investors and climate activists to meet the Paris climate change goals.

Earlier this year, BP agreed to increase its disclosure on emissions, set targets to reduce them and show how future investments meet the Paris goals. But investors and activists say it needs to do more.

Energy consumption has historically been closely linked to economic growth.

But while global economic activity cooled last year, energy demand growth was driven by a sharp increase in abnormally hot and cold days around the world, particularly in China, the United States and India, which in turn led consumers to use more energy for cooling and heating.

Parts of the northern hemisphere were hit by freezing cold weather fronts last winter, only to face record temperatures in summer that resulted in vast fires and droughts.

Fossil fuel’s rise

The BP review showed an increase in oil and gas production, driven largely by a break-neck expansion of US shale output.

While OPEC, Russia and other producers continue to cut back oil production in an effort to boost prices, US drillers are rapidly increasing output, particularly from the prolific Permian basin in west Texas and New Mexico.

As a result, global oil supply rose 2.2 million barrels per day, more than double its historical average.

The US boom also accounted for nearly half of an unprecedented increase in global natural gas supplies, which increased by 5 per cent in 2018.

The increase in US oil and gas production was the largest-ever annual increase by any country, BP said.

Renewable energy grew by 14.5 per cent, nearing the record increase in 2017. The share of renewables in power generation nevertheless remained mostly unchanged, accounting for around one third.

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2019