Energy-related emissions climbed 1.4 percent to 32.5 gigatons in 2017, the International Energy Agency reported yesterday in its annual survey of global carbon levels. The increase is the equivalent of adding 170 million cars to the road, the agency said.
The uptick—coming on the heels of the major international climate deal—signals an abrupt end to several years of stagnant emissions growth and raises questions about the world’s commitment to reducing carbon levels.
“It’s not good news,” said Rachel Cleetus, policy director for the climate and energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It certainly is a sign that we have a great deal of work to do to meet the commitments that countries made in Paris to limit emissions and the harmful effects of climate change.”
Asia accounted for two-thirds of the increase in global carbon emissions. Carbon dioxide emissions also climbed in the European Union.
Those increases stood in contrast to the United States, which posted the largest year-over-year decline in carbon emissions of any advanced economy. The decline was all the more notable given President Trump’s outspoken opposition to global attempts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and his plans to withdraw from the Paris deal.
The IEA figures were not particularly surprising, analysts said, as a strong global economy and low energy prices prodded emissions higher. Growth in emerging economies like China and India has driven global emissions growth for much of the last decade, they noted. In that regard, the growth of emissions in 2017 represented a return to the norm following stagnating carbon levels in 2015 and 2016.
The numbers nevertheless laid bare the challenges facing climate hawks as they seek to tame an increase in global temperatures. An improved economic landscape worldwide resulted in a 2.1 percent increase in demand for energy. Roughly three-quarters of that increase, or 72 percent, was satisfied by fossil fuels.
Meanwhile, the world backslid on other key metrics like energy efficiency. Global energy intensity still improved by 1.7 percent. But that was below an average of 2.3 percent over the last three years and short of the 3 percent annual reduction that analysts say is necessary to keep global increases in temperature to around 2 degrees Celsius.
Demand for oil remained as robust as ever. Oil demand rose 1.5 million barrels per day, or by 1.6 percent. That was twice the average annual growth rate witnessed over the last decade, IEA said.