Cars and coal help drive 'strong' CO2 rise in 2018

Matt McGrath BBC 6 Dec 18;

A booming global market for cars has helped drive CO2 emissions to an all-time high in 2018, say researchers.

The main factor in the near 3% rise has been coal use in China, driven by government efforts to boost a flagging economy.

But emissions from cars, truck and planes using fossil fuels continue to rise in all parts of the world

Renewables have also grown this year, but are not keeping pace with the CO2 rise.

The research, carried out by the Global Carbon Project (GCP), says that this year's "strong" rise is projected to be 2.7%.

That's much bigger than 2017's 1.6%. This will worry scientists as they had seen CO2 emissions relatively flat for the three years before.

So what's caused the rise?

While coal use remains below the historically high level of 2013, it has grown again this year. China, the world's largest emitter saw emissions rise an estimated 4.7%.

At UN climate talks in Katowice, the lead researcher Prof Corinne Le Quéré, from the University of East Anglia, told BBC News that the rise in China was down to government activity.

"For the past two years, the Chinese government has boosted the economy and the economy is based on construction and heavy industry, coal and steel. When you boost the economy you actually see a rise in emissions," she said.

Other factors include a rise in the US after several years of decline, which the researchers say is due to a very cold winter and a hot summer driving up demand for energy.

Who are the biggest emitters?

2018's top ten has China on top, followed by the US and the EU as a whole region. After these three come India, Russia, Japan, Germany, Iran, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Canada.

A booming economy has seen India's emissions grow by 6.3%. Renewables are growing fast but from a low base.

The five countries contributing most to growth in global emissions outside of China, the US, the EU and India over the last decade are Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Iraq and South Korea.

What's happening with cars?

One common factor across rich and poor countries alike has been the continued rise in the consumption of oil in the transport sector. In the EU, the amount of fuel used for flights and road transport has surged by 4%. In US, use of coal actually fell while fossil fuels used in car journeys rose by 1.4%.

"Apart from the coal story, the emissions from oil use in cars and lorries and trucks and aviation have not been abated at all," said Prof Le Quéré.

"They just keep rising and rising and that's associated with an increase in cars everywhere around the world."

According to the experts, people are driving bigger petrol and diesel cars, travelling further than before, in more countries.

What does this year's rise in CO2 mean?

It's not good news, says the scientists, who argue that global emissions have to start to fall by 2020 if the world is to meet the temperature goals of the Paris agreement.

People are simply not keeping the promises they made three years ago when the Paris climate agreement was signed.

"Global commitments made in Paris in 2015 to reduce emissions are not yet being matched by proportionate actions," said Dr Glen Peters, a Research Director at the CICERO Centre for International Climate Research in Oslo, Norway, who led the emissions analysis.

"The rise in emissions in 2017 could be seen as a one-off, but the growth rate in 2018 is even higher, and it is becoming crystal clear the world is so far failing in its duty to steer onto a course consistent with the goals set out in the Paris Agreement in 2015."

How are people at COP24 reacting to the rise?

It is being seen here as another warning shot from the real world that negotiators really need to make progress.

"All the warm words spoken at the UN climate summit in Poland won't help prevent climate change," said Mohammed Adow, who's at the conference for Christian Aid.

"The climate does not respond to lofty rhetoric, it responds to carbon dioxide emission reductions.

"If this is the most important issue of our time, as leaders repeatedly say, then why aren't they acting accordingly - and showing up for the climate talks?"

Is anything being done to limit emissions from cars and trucks?
Despite the gloomy picture on cars in 2018, the future is not so solid for the internal combustion engine.

While they were rare 10 years ago, there are now three million plug-in cars in use globally.

Norway will stop selling cars that are not electric in 2025. The UK, France, the Netherlands and India say they will stop before 2040.

Car manufacturers are responding to the fork in the road. Volkswagen says it will launch its last generation of petrol and diesel cars by 2026.

The move has been welcomed but many think it is not fast enough.

"We simply cannot wait nearly a quarter of a century to phase out the cars warming our climate and making our air toxic," said Rosie Rogers from Greenpeace.

"People living in polluted cities and facing climate change-related disasters deserve better than that."

Where's the good news here?

The overall growth in green energy has not been enough to keep pace with the rise in emissions - but that bald headline masks some significant progress, say experts.

The costs of renewables continue to plummet. Morocco, Mexico, Chile and Egypt are now producing solar energy for three US cents or less per kilowatt hour. That's cheaper than natural gas.

More than 50% of new electricity generating capacity being installed right now is green. Wind and solar are doubling every four years. Coal is going backwards in most of the developed world.

While the US may not be staying in the Paris agreement, most US citizens live in a jurisdiction that still supports the Paris goals.

Around the world, some 9,000 cities and municipalities representing some 16% of the world's population are committed to Paris.

Over the past decade, 19 countries including the UK, Ireland, France and the US have all cut emissions while growing their economies.

"Before 2015, many people thought the Paris Agreement was impossible, yet thousands of people and institutions made the shift from impossible to unstoppable," wrote former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres, in a commentary on the research.

"The same is true of decarbonising the economy. Propelled by the pursuit of clean air, jobs and energy-independence among other benefits, the intrepid, collective efforts of young people, civil society, businesses, investors, cities and states are charting the course to net zero emissions by 2050."

'Brutal news': global carbon emissions jump to all-time high in 2018

Rapid cuts needed to protect billions of people from rising emissions due to increase in use of cars and coal
Damian Carrington The Guardian 5 Dec 18;

Global carbon emissions will jump to a record high in 2018, according to a report, dashing hopes a plateau of recent years would be maintained. It means emissions are heading in the opposite direction to the deep cuts urgently needed, say scientists, to fight climate change.

The rise is due to the growing number of cars on the roads and a renaissance of coal use and means the world remains on the track to catastrophic global warming. However, the report’s authors said the emissions trend can still be turned around by 2020, if cuts are made in transport, industry and farming emissions.

The research by the Global Carbon Project was launched at the UN climate summit in Katowice, Poland, where almost 200 nations are working to turn the vision of tackling climate change agreed in Paris in 2015 into action. The report estimates CO2 emissions will rise by 2.7% in 2018, sharply up on the plateau from 2014-16 and 1.6% rise in 2017.

Almost all countries are contributing to the rise, with emissions in China up 4.7%, in the US by 2.5% and in India by 6.3% in 2018. The EU’s emissions are near flat, but this follows a decade of strong falls.

“The global rise in carbon emissions is worrying, because to deal with climate change they have to turn around and go to zero eventually,” said Prof Corinne Le Quéré, at the University of East Anglia,who led the research published in the journal Nature. “We are not seeing action in the way we really need to. This needs to change quickly.”

The current Paris agreement pledges from nations will only limit global warming to 3C, while even a rise of 1.5C will be disastrous for many people, according to the world’s scientists.

Le Quéré said: “I hope that by 2020, when [governments] have to come back with stronger commitments, we will then see a turning point.”

The International Energy Agency’s data also shows rising emissions in 2018. Its executive director, Fatih Birol, said: “This turnaround should be another warning to governments as they meet in Katowice this week.”

“Every year of rising emissions puts economies and the homes, lives and livelihoods of billions of people at risk,” said Christiana Figueres, at the Mission 2020 campaign, who was the UN climate diplomat overseeing the Paris agreement. “We are in the age of exponentials,” she said, with renewable energy and electric cars expanding rapidly, but with the extreme weather impacts of climate change doing the same. “We have to ensure it is the solutions exponential curve that is going to win the race.”

Prof David Reay, at the University of Edinburgh, UK, said: “This annual balance sheet for global carbon is comprehensive and scientifically robust. Its message is more brutal than ever: we are deep in the red and heading still deeper. For all our sakes, world leaders must now do what is required.”

Harjeet Singh, at ActionAid International, said news of the emissions’ rise should galvanise those at the climate summit: “There’s way too much complacency in the air at these talks.”

The “dark news” of rising emissions is merging with two other alarming trends, according to Prof David Victor, at the University of California, San Diego, in an article with colleagues also published in Nature on Wednesday.

Falling air pollution is enabling more of the sun’s warmth to reach the Earth’s surface, as aerosol pollutants reflect sunlight, while a long-term natural climate cycle in the Pacific is entering a warm phase. Victor said: “Global warming is accelerating. [These] three trends will combine over the next 20 years to make climate change faster and more furious than anticipated.”

The Global Carbon Budget, produced by 76 scientists from 57 research institutions in 15 countries, found the major drivers of the 2018 increase were more coal-burning in China and India as their economies grew, and more oil used in more transport. Industry also used more gas. Renewable energy grew rapidly, but not enough to offset the increased use of fossil fuel.

“There was hope China was rapidly moving away from coal power, but the last two years have shown it will not be so easy to say farewell quickly,” said Jan Ivar Korsbakken, at the Centre for International Climate Research in Norway.

In the three years since the Paris agreement was signed, financial institutions have invested more than $478bn in the world’s top 120 coal plant developers, according to a report by the NGOs Urgewald, BankTrack and partners. Chinese banks led the underwriting of coal investments, while Japanese banks led the loans, the NGOs found.

In the US, emissions rose as an unusually cold winter and hot summer boosted demand for both heating and cooling in homes. But it is expected that emissions will start to decline again in 2019, as cheap gas, wind and solar continue to displace coal – coal use has dropped 40% since 2005 and it is now at its lowest level since 1979.

The global rise in emissions, even in rich, developed nations, is very concerning, said Antonio Marcondes, Brazil’s chief negotiator at the UN summit: “Emission reductions are like credit-card debt: the longer they are put off, the more expensive and painful they become.”

Brazil reached its 2020 emissions targets early, but fears of a rise in deforestation under the new president, Jair Bolsonaro, could reverse this. But Le Quéré is optimistic that the rapid global rises seen in recent decades will not return: “This is very unlikely.”