Global energy growth is outpacing decarbonization

R B Jackson, C Le Quéré, R M Andrew, J G Canadell, J I Korsbakken, Z Liu, G P Peters, B Zheng

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Abstract

Recent reports have highlighted the challenge of keeping global average temperatures below 2 °C and—even more so—1.5 °C (IPCC 2018). Fossil-fuel burning and cement production release ~90% of all CO2 emissions from human activities. After a three-year hiatus with stable global emissions (Jackson et al 2016; Le Quéré C et al 2018a ; IEA 2018), CO2 emissions grew by 1.6% in 2017 to 36.2 Gt (billion tonnes), and are expected to grow a further 2.7% in 2018 (range: 1.8%–3.7%) to a record 37.1 ± 2 Gt CO2 (Le Quéré et al 2018b). Additional increases in 2019 remain uncertain but appear likely because of persistent growth in oil and natural gas use and strong growth projected for the global economy. Coal use has slowed markedly in the last few years, potentially peaking, but its future trajectory remains uncertain. Despite positive progress in ~19 countries whose economies have grown over the last decade and their emissions have declined, growth in energy use from fossil-fuel sources is still outpacing the rise of low-carbon sources and activities. A robust global economy, insufficient emission reductions in developed countries, and a need for increased energy use in developing countries where per capita emissions remain far below those of wealthier nations will continue to put upward pressure on CO2 emissions. Peak emissions will occur only when total fossil CO2 emissions finally start to decline despite growth in global energy consumption, with fossil energy production replaced by rapidly growing low- or no-carbon technologies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number120401
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Volume13
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 Dec 2018

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