Climate Change

CoP26: Carbon budget report puts Net Zero euphoria in place at Glasgow

Net rise of emission for all major countries in 2021

By Jayanta Basu
Published: Thursday 04 November 2021

A report released November 4, 2021 at the ongoing climate meet at Glasgow has shown that China and the United States continue to hold pole positions in global carbon emission. This, as all major carbon-propelled economies are set to go back to emission levels prior to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

The report came amid the slew of announcements made by these countries before or at the 26th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The announcements were about when these countries would achieve a Net Zero emission status. The United States, China and Europe announced Net Zero target dates in the days leading to Glasgow.

India announced its Net Zero commitment at Glasgow. The timeline stands at 2050 for both, the US and Europe, 2060 for China and 2070 for India.

According to the Global Carbon Project, fossil fuel emission that dropped down by 5.4 per cent in 2020 amid COVID-19 lockdowns, has roared back with an increase of 4.9 per cent this year. In gross value, this amounts to an addition of 36.4 billion tonnes.

The report observes that “coal and gas use are set to grow more in 2021 than they fell in 2020” but oil use remains below 2019 levels.

For the rest of the world taken as a whole, fossil carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions remain below 2019 levels.

The research team preparing the report — including the University of Exeter, the University of East Anglia (UEA), CICERO and Stanford University — say a further rise in emissions in 2022 cannot be ruled out if road transport and aviation return to pre-pandemic levels and coal use is stable.

Emissions rising

All major emitting countries show the rising trend. While China is projected to rise four per cent compared to 2020, the statistic is 7.6 per cent for both the US and Europe while India is projected to rise 12.6 per cent in 2021, compared to earlier year.

India would likely top the percentage rise chart, but places third, alongwith Europe, in terms of gross emission, after China and the US.

The report says China, with a projected 11.1 billion tonnes of expected emission, will be responsible for 31 per cent of global emissions. The US, with 5.1 billion tonnes, comes second with 14 per cent of global emission load.

Europe, with 2.8 billion tonnes, is set to contribute seven per cent while India with 2.7 billion tonnes will contribute close to seven per cent of global emission as well.

Compared to 2019, the pre COVID-19 era, the US will emit 3.7 per cent less, while Europe will do marginally better with emission levels sliding down by comparison to the same benchmark.

China, already a global emission topper, pushes up its emission share further with a 5.5 per cent rise over 2019, while India does better than China with a 4.4 per cent rise compared to 2019.

Overall, China remains a continuing concern as its response to the COVID-19 pandemic has clearly sparked further growth in CO2 emissions, pushed by the power and industry sectors.

The figures have not included the impact of international transport, particularly aviation.

“The rapid rebound in emissions as economies recover from the pandemic reinforces the need for immediate global action on climate change,” Pierre Friedlingstein from University of Exeter’s Global Systems Institute, who led the study, said.

“The rebound in global fossil CO2 emissions in 2021 reflects a return towards the pre-Covid fossil-based economy. Investments in the green economy in post-Covid recovery plans of some countries have been insufficient,” Corinne Le Quéré from UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences, said.

“Reaching net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 entails cutting global CO2 emissions by about 1.4 billion tonnes each year on average,” Friedlingstein said.

He added: “Emissions fell by 1.9 billion tonnes in 2020. So, to achieve net zero by 2050, we must cut emissions every year by an amount comparable to that seen during COVID-19. This highlights the scale of the action that is now required and hence the importance of the CoP26 discussions.”

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