Emissions Rebound from Covid-19 Slump: IEA
Energy-related CO2 emissions fell by 5.8% globally or 2bn metric tons (mt) last year, which was "without precedent in human history," according to the International Energy Agency (IEA)'s report published March 2.
But the evidence of a rapid rebound in energy demand and emissions in many economies underscores the risk that CO2 emissions will increase significantly this year, it said.
Demand for fossil fuels was hardest hit in 2020 – especially oil, which plunged by a record 8.6% and accounted for "well over 1.1bn mt"; and coal, which dropped by 4%. Road transport reductions accounted for half the decline in global oil demand, and the slump in aviation for around 35%.
Emissions from the power sector fell 3.3%, the largest relative and absolute fall ever. The share of renewables in global electricity generation however rose from 27% in 2019 to 29% in 2020, the biggest annual increase on record. Despite the shock of the pandemic, renewables accelerated their expansion in 2020.
What happens to energy demand and emissions in 2021 and beyond will depend on how much emphasis governments put on clean energy transitions in their efforts to boost their economies in the coming months, the IEA said.
Despite the problems, it said that "many power systems successfully kept the lights on, allowing hospitals to function or communication systems to operate with much higher shares of variable renewables. This provides a glimpse of things to come and offers greater confidence in operating large electricity systems powered with higher shares of renewables. Further, consumer preference for electric vehicles continues to grow, as does the number of electric vehicle models available," it said.
CO2 emissions include emissions from all uses of fossil fuels for energy purposes but not those from industrial processes, industrial waste and non-renewable municipal waste.