Renewables are cushioning the blow of increased fossil fuel activity since the pandemic, with global emissions only expected to grow by under one per cent this year, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
New analysis from the Paris-based climate group shows that CO2 emissions are on course to increase by close to 300m tonnes in 2022 to 33.8 billion tonnes.
This is a far smaller rise than their jump of nearly 2bn tonnes in 2021, which was driven by the rapid global recovery from the economic crisis – triggered by the pandemic.
Increases this year have been driven by power generation and the aviation sector, as air travel rebounds from pandemic lows.
However, the rise in global CO2 emissions would be much larger – more than tripling to reach close to 1bn tonnes – were it not for the major deployments of renewable energy technologies and electric vehicles (EVs) around the world.
The energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also boosted global coal demand in 2022, with natural gas far more expensive and countries scrambling for supplies ahead of winter.
Nevertheless, the increase coal emissions has been considerably outweighed by the expansion of renewables.
Solar and wind power are leading a sharp rise in global renewable electricity generation this year, providing an extra 700 terawatt-hours of power.
This is the largest annual rise on record.
Coal revival in winter supply scramble
Global energy trends have also been hampered this year by an emerging economic downturn, which has significantly dampened expectations for economic growth, especially in Europe.
IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol argued that policy actions from Government are driving structural changes in the energy economy.
The UK is targeting its own sharp ramp up in renewable power, with targets to reach 50GW of offshore wind power by the end of the decade and 70GW of solar power by 2035 as part of its energy security strategy.
He said: “The global energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted a scramble by many countries to use other energy sources to replace the natural gas supplies that Russia has withheld from the market. The encouraging news is that solar and wind are filling much of the gap, with the uptick in coal appearing to be relatively small and temporary.”
After renewables, coal is expected to post the next largest increase this year in power generation.
In total, global CO2 emissions from coal-fired power generation are set to grow by more than 200m tonnes, or two per cent, this year, led by increases in Asia.
The European Union’s CO2 emissions are on course to decline this year despite an increase in coal emissions.
The IEA expects the spike in European coal use to be temporary, with a strong pipeline of new renewable projects forecast to add around 50GW of capacity next year.
These additions would generate more electricity than the expected increase in coal-fired power generation in the EU in 2022.
It is also looking to cap gas prices as it reduces its energy usage of fossil fuels.
In China, meanwhile, CO2 emissions are set to remain broadly flat this year, reflecting the mixture of different forces at work, including weaker economic growth, the impacts of drought on hydropower, and huge deployments of solar and wind.
The effects of policy on energy security and global emissions trends will be explored in more depth by the IEA’s World’s Energy Outlook 2022, which will be released later this month on 27 October.