Kochi: If the current levels of carbon emissions continue, there’s a 50% chance that in just nine years the world will see global warming limit of 1.5°C exceed, as per the analysis of global carbon emissions by scientists disclosed at the 27th Conference of Parties at Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.
The report estimates that in 2022, global carbon emissions will increase by 1% above 2021 levels (at 36.6 billion tonnes of CO2). “We are nowhere near limiting warming to 1.5°C as per the Paris Agreement,” the authors of the report said in a press conference at Sharm El-Sheikh.
While emissions would fall marginally in the European Union and China in 2022, India will witness a 6% increase driven mostly by the use of coal. Indian energy scientists said that the country’s increasing deployment of renewable energy is a strength, but some requisites to make it matter include timely finance to build the infrastructure to store and transmit this energy.
Carbon emissions are on the rise
Carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide are the three main greenhouse gases responsible for global warming. Warming in turn causes climate change which impacts people, ecosystems and the environment (such as when it causes extreme weather events), according to the report.
Quantifying the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases is crucial to understand the dynamics of carbon in the atmosphere and this can help develop management actions and interventions to tackle climate change.
This is what the Global Carbon Project, established in 2001, aims to do. It is a Global Research Project of Future Earth, an international research programme, and a research partner of the World Climate Research Programme, an international programme that coordinates global climate research.
The project has been publishing reports on carbon emissions every year since 2006, by taking into account the various aspects of the global carbon cycle, and how human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation and land use changes interact between, and feed into, each other. This year report is the 17th edition, which delivers a worrying message: “we are far from limiting emissions to within 1.5°C of warming as per the Paris Agreement”.
The report, which provides the latest trends in carbon emissions and sinks, estimates the total global CO2 emissions to be 40.6 billion tonnes (or GtCO2) in 2022, mainly fuelled by fossil fuel emissions. Emissions from land-use change (such as deforestation) are projected to be 3.9 GtCO2 this year.
Emissions are projected to fall in China (0.9%) and the EU (0.8%). However, it will increase in the USA (1.5%), India (6%) and by 1.7% in the rest of the world combined. To achieve zero CO2 emissions by 2050 now requires a decrease of about 1.4 GtCO2 each year, comparable to the observed fall in 2020 emissions resulting from COVID-19 lockdowns, the report notes.
“This year we see yet another rise in global fossil CO2 emissions, when we need a rapid decline,” said Pierre Friedlingstein, of the University of Exeter’s Global Systems Institute, who led the study. It should be decreasing every year by 5%, he said in the press conference on November 11 at COP27.
“If current emissions levels persist, there is a 50% chance that we will exceed the global warming limit of 1.5°C in just nine years.”
India is among the top three emitters, with China and the US. “India and the rest of the world have strong economic growth that is not offset by decarbonization or declines in energy per GDP, driving up fossil CO2 emissions,” the report read.
India and an equitable transition
Emissions in India are estimated to be 2.9 GtCO2 this year. Coal emissions are predicted to increase by 5%, oil by 10%, and emissions caused by cement, by 10 %. Fossil fuel-fired energy sources are continuing to grow despite the high deployment of renewables in some countries (such as India), as per the report, which more than 100 scientists from 18 countries contributed to.
Renewables may therefore be key for the future, according to Ulka Kelkar, director of the Climate Program, World Resources Institute, India. More than half of the damage caused by carbon emissions occurred before 1990 when economies like India started to develop. Even now, India’s emissions are rising from a low base compared to other large economies, and the average Indian’s emissions are a fraction of the European or American, said Kelkar.
“Going forward, India is fortunate to have abundant renewable energy to fuel its growth but needs timely finance to build the infrastructure to store and transmit this energy. Adoption of clean technologies by India will not just cut carbon but can also prevent millions of premature deaths due to air pollution.”
Future responsibility is crucial too, pointed out Pallavi Das, programme associate, Council on Energy, Environment and Water.
“The net-zero pledges of China, EU and the US will collectively exhaust 89% of the remaining carbon budget of 500 GtCO2 by 2050. A mere 10-year advancement of the net zero years by these countries can release 18% of global carbon space for the developing world, making the transition more equitable. Otherwise, the current net zero years of the developed countries will only perpetuate inequity in the climate debate.”