Monday 25 November 2019 3:54 pm

No emissions peak in sight as greenhouse gas levels hit record high in 2018

The levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have hit a new record high, according to new data from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

The WMO greenhouse gas bulletin showed that average concentrations of carbon dioxide reached 407.8 parts per million in 2018, up from 405.5 parts per million in 2017.

Read more: Coal powered generation set for record fall in 2019

The carbon dioxide increase in the period was very similar to that recorded between 2016 and 2017, and is just above the average rise for the last decade.

WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas said: “There is no sign of a slowdown, let alone a decline, in greenhouse gases concentration in the atmosphere despite all the commitments under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.”

“We need to translate the commitments into action and increase the level of ambition for the sake of the future welfare of the mankind.”

Global levels of carbon dioxide crossed the symbolic and significant 400 parts per million benchmark in 2015.

Concentrations of methane and nitrous oxide also surged by higher amounts than during the past decade, according to observations from the Global Atmosphere Watch network.

This morning Carbon Brief reported that global coal-fired electricity generation is on track for its biggest fall on record in 2019, with production expected to fall by around 3 per cent.

This is equivalent to a reduction of around 300 terrawatt hours, which is more than the combined total output from coal in the UK, Germany and Spain last year.

The fall is the result of record reductions in developed economies such as the EU, South Korea, and in the US, which has seen two of the country’s largest coal plants close this month.

According to Carbon Brief, a three per cent reduction in power sector coal use could imply zero growth in global carbon dioxide output in 2019, if emissions changes in other sectors are the same as in 2018.

Read more: Renewables set to make up half of the UK’s electricity production by 2025

Despite this, global emissions levels are not set to peak by 2030 under current climate policies. 

“The findings of WMO’s greenhouse gas bulletin points us in a clear direction – in this critical period, the world must deliver concrete, stepped-up action on emissions,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environment Programme. 

The continuing long-term rise in carbon dioxide levels means that future generations will be confronted with increasingly severe impacts of climate change, including rising temperatures, more extreme weather, water stress, sea level rise and disruption to marine and land ecosystems.