By Nina Chestney
LONDON (Reuters) – Global energy-related carbon emissions rose to a record high last year as energy demand and coal use increased, mainly in Asia, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Tuesday.
Energy-related CO2 emissions rose by 1.7 percent to 33.1 billion tonnes from the previous year, the highest rate of growth since 2013, with the power sector accounting for almost two-thirds of this growth, according to IEA estimates.
The United States’ CO2 emissions grew by 3.1 percent in 2018, reversing a decline a year earlier, while China’s emissions rose by 2.5 percent and India’s by 4.5 percent.
Europe’s emissions fell by 1.3 percent and Japan’s fell for the fifth year running.
Carbon dioxide emissions are the primary cause of global average temperature rise which countries are seeking to curb to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change.
For the first time, the IEA assessed the impact of fossil fuel use on the increase in global temperature and found that CO2 emitted from coal consumption was responsible for over 0.3 degrees Celsius of the 1 degree rise in global average temperature since pre-industrial times.
Global energy demand grew by 2.3 percent in 2018, nearly twice the average rate of growth since 2010, driven by a strong global economy and higher heating and cooling demand in some parts of the world, the IEA said.
“We have seen an extraordinary increase in global energy demand in 2018, growing at its fastest pace this decade,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director.
“Last year can also be considered another golden year for gas … but despite major growth in renewables, global emissions are still rising, demonstrating once again that more urgent action is needed on all fronts,” he added.
By country, China, the United States, and India together accounted for nearly 70 percent of the rise in energy demand.
Global gas demand increased at its fastest rate since 2010, up 4.6 percent from a year earlier, driven by higher demand as switching from gas to coal increased.
Demand for energy from renewable sources rose by 4 percent but the use of renewables needs to expand much more quickly to meet long-term climate goals, the report said.
Oil demand grew by 1.3 percent in 2018, while coal consumption was up 0.7 percent as higher demand in Asia outpaced declines everywhere else.
“Coal-to-gas switching avoided almost 60 million tonnes of coal demand, with the transition to less carbon-intensive natural gas helping to avert 95 million tonnes of CO2 emissions,” the IEA said.
“Without this coal-to-gas switch, the increase in emissions would have been more than 15 percent greater,” it added.
(Reporting by Nina Chestney; editing by David Evans)