Carbon dioxide emissions may not surpass 2019 levels until 2027: analysis

Global carbon dioxide emissions are expected to increase after the pandemic, but may not exceed 2019 levels until 2027, according to a projection from the International Energy Agency (IEA). 

Demand for energy has decreased since the start of the pandemic for reasons including reduced air and vehicle travel. 

The IEA, which pushes for a “sustainable energy future”, projects a 7 percent drop in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2020 amid reductions in fossil fuel use. 

The analysis predicted a decline in annual CO2 emissions to where they were a decade ago. However, it says there “may not have been” a similar fall in emissions of methane, a more powerful greenhouse gas. 

Under an IEA model based on today’s current energy policies in which the pandemic comes under control in 2021, the global economy will return to its pre-pandemic level in 2021 and energy demand will return by early 2023 but emissions won’t exceed 2019 levels until 2027. 

Energy demand will recover faster than the rate of emissions because renewables will make up a greater share of the market, while the use of coal will decline, according to the model. 

In 2020, the report estimates that global energy demand will drop by 5 percent and energy investment will drop by 18 percent. 

Specifically, demand for oil is expected to drop 8 percent while coal use is expected to drop 7 percent. Natural gas demand is slated to drop 3 percent while renewables grow slightly. 

In the long term, the report projects that under this scenario coal will remain about 8 percent lower than pre-coronavirus levels through 2030, while oil demand is expected to recover by 2023 but plateau after 2030. 

It projects that natural gas will increase by 14 percent over 2019 levels by 2030. 

While the slowdown in emissions increases may contribute less to climate change, the world will likely need to reduce its emissions to mitigate global warming.

The report notes that decisions made over the next decade “will play a critical role in determining the pathway” to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. 

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