Global greenhouse gas emissions are likely to rise to record levels as governments fail to “build back better” from the Covid-19 pandemic. CO emissions have already rebounded strongly after their sudden plunge last spring, when governments around the world sent their countries into successive lockdowns. They are set to jump this year by the second highest amount on record.
Emissions will rise again this year and next year and 2023 is now on track to see the highest levels of carbon dioxide output in human history, according to forecasts released by the International Energy Agency. Such a rise would put the goals of the Paris climate agreement all but out of reach. The reason for the sharp rise is that governments have failed to invest in green energy as they have sought to rebuild their economies from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA and one of the world’s foremost energy economists, said: “Of more than $16tn [£11.7tn, being spent on recovery from Covid-19] only 2% is going to clean energy investments. This is by far not enough. What we will see is that 2023 will reach an all-time record high [in emissions]. This is very worrying.”
Countries such as India, Indonesia, Latin American countries and other emerging economies are falling behind in clean energy investments. China, the world’s biggest emitter, has been investing in renewable energy but also has strong and continuing investments in coal and high-CO infrastructure. About 90% of the forecast growth in emissions will come from the developing world.
Birol said developing countries needed financial help to make the leap. “At the global scale, there is no lack of capital [available for investment in green energy] but that capital does not look at these projects in emerging economies,” he said. “There is a perception that the risk is higher.”
Rich countries must also fulfil their promises to ensure at least $100bn a year in climate finance flows to developing countries, to help them cut emissions and cope with the impacts of extreme weather, Birol said.
“This $100bn should be a floor, not a ceiling,” he added. “We need to have as a purpose how to mobilise investment in clean energy,” he said. “We need this at Cop26 – there is no way out.”
Vivid Economics found that only about a tenth, or about $1.8tn, of all spending on recovery measures would have a beneficial impact on the climate and environment, while about twice that amount would have an environmentally harmful impact.