Global carbon emissions bounce back to pre-pandemic levels

Author : Robert Hart

Source : Forbes

Worldwide carbon dioxide emissions have rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, according to new data from the International Energy Agency
19:30, 2 March 2021


Worldwide carbon dioxide emissions have rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, according to new data from the International Energy Agency (IEA), following a historic drop in emissions during 2020 as countries around the world implemented harsh lockdown restrictions in a bid to control the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Related: The world needs Biden to lead on climate reporting


  • Major economies led the rebound, the IEA said, with global carbon dioxide emissions in December 2020 being 2% higher than the same month in 2019, the equivalent to 60 million tonnes. 
  • The changes in emissions differed around the world: China was the only large economy to increase emissions in 2020, rising 0.8% overall, and the U.S. and EU saw emissions fall by about 10% at its lowest, with data showing the U.S. returning to pre-pandemic levels in December.
  • Emissions from energy dropped by an unprecedented amount amid pandemic restrictions, the IEA said, the same as “removing all of the European Union’s emissions from the global total.”
  • The rebound should serve as a “stark warning” to policymakers that more must be done to implement clean energy policies, IEA executive director Fatih Birol said, adding that the “numbers show we are returning to carbon-intensive business-as-usual.”
  • “If current expectations for a global economic rebound this year are confirmed, and in the absence of major policy changes in the world’s largest economies, global emissions are likely to increase in 2021,” Birol said.
  • There is cause for optimism, Birol said, pointing to China’s “ambitious carbon-neutrality target,” Europe’s Green Deal and sustainable recovery plans and the Biden Administration’s placing climate at the “heart of its policymaking.” 

Related: Climate change could play direct role in SARS-CoV-2 appearance


Though there have been hefty drops in greenhouse gas emissions spurred on by Covid-19 lockdowns around the world a report by the World Meteorological Organization posits virtually no impact on the impending climate crisis. The IEA, in its report, said it hopes 2019 will be the peak year for emissions, something a rebound threatens. A majority of people from around the world, most of them young, believe there is a “clear and convincing” mandate for urgent and aggressive action from politicians to address the climate crisis, according to a UN survey. Policies such as forest conservation, solar wind and renewable power, climate-friendly farming techniques, and investing more in green businesses and jobs all polled favorably. 

Related: IMF, World Bank pledge to to combat climate change


Former President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate accords, a huge blow to the movement of nearly 200 countries. Biden swiftly rejoined upon becoming president, something Republicans erroneously complained would cost American jobs. To the contrary, evidence suggests that the creation of new green energy jobs significantly outpaces that in the oil and gas sector and as well as indications of broader economic benefits to the U.S. and its partners within the accords. 

Read the original text at Forbes.

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