Global warming emissions hit record level in 2018, IEA reports

Coal plants emitted more than ever in 2018 putting Earth in ‘deep trouble

A 2.3 percent jump in global energy demand past year outstripped the expansion of renewables and helped drive record-high greenhouse gas emissions, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said Tuesday. India recorded a 4% rise in energy demand, led by coal (power generation) and oil (transport), the two biggest contributors to pollution.

"While emissions from all fossil fuels increased, the power sector accounted for almost two-thirds of emissions growth".

Coal use in power generation alone surpassed 10 Gt, accounting for a third of the total increase. China, India, and the United States accounted for 70% of all energy demand and 85% of the net increase in emissions, IEA reported.

These findings are part of the IEA's latest assessment of global energy consumption and energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for 2018.

China and the United States of America, the world's two largest power markets, accounted for 70% of global demand growth.

Despite strong growth from wind, solar, and nuclear, carbon-free sources accounted for just one-third of the world's new energy in 2018, meaning fossil fuels remain firmly dominant.

In Asia, coal demand itself also continued to grow. "Higher economic growth was not met by higher energy productivity and lower-carbon options did not scale fast enough to meet the rise in demand", says the report. "But despite major growth in renewables, global emissions are still rising, demonstrating once again that more urgent action is needed on all fronts - developing all-clean energy solutions, curbing emissions, improving efficiency, and spurring investments and innovation, including in carbon capture, utilisation and storage".

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Higher energy demand across the globe came amid rollbacks in energy efficiency and as growth in renewable energy sources failed to keep pace. China remains the world's leading renewable energy country, both for wind and solar, followed by Europe and then the United States.

CO2 emissions increased in China (+2.5 percent), the U.S. (+3.1 percent), and India (+4.5 percent).

Kelly Sims Gallagher, a former Obama administration official who now teaches energy and environmental policy at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, said the increase in American emissions points to a lack of policy focus in the United States, where President Donald Trump has prioritized a rollback of his predecessor's environmental policies. Natural gas growth was especially pronounced in the US and China, the IEA found. The switch from coal to gas was responsible for almost 40 bcm of the increase in gas, more than one-fifth of the total extra demand.

Oil demand grew by 1.3 percent in 2018, while coal consumption was up 0.7 percent as higher demand in Asia outpaced declines everywhere else. USA emissions grew 3.1 percent in 2018, reversing decreases in 2016 and 2017.

The use of coal, the most CO2-intense fuel, rose by 0.7 percent, mostly because of Asian countries. Energy efficiency saw lacklustre improvement. India saw a rise in emissions by 4.8 per cent, or 105 million tonne, with the growth split evenly between power and other sectors such as transport and industry.

Demand for energy from renewable sources increased by 4 per cent in 2018, accounting for nearly one-quarter of global energy demand growth, second only to natural gas. The majority of the growth was attributable to a hotter summer and a colder than average winter, which increased power demand in buildings.

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