Energy giant BP has warned efforts to tackle climate are losing steam after global carbon emissions grew unexpectedly and at their fastest pace in nearly a decade last year.
Demand for energy increased by 2.9pc, while carbon emissions rose by 2pc in 2018, faster than at any time since 2010.
There were 0.6 gigatonnes of emissions added to the air, which is roughly equivalent to increasing the number of passenger cars on the planet by a third.
All of this occurred despite a backdrop of modest GDP growth and rising energy prices, according to the findings in BP’s 68th annual statistical review of world energy, a closely watched survey.
“The longer carbon emissions continue to rise, the harder and more costly will be the necessary eventual adjustment to net-zero carbon emissions,” said Bob Dudley, BP’s chief executive.
Spencer Dale, BP’s chief economist, said the pace of progress was falling “well short” of expectations and would make it difficult to meet goals set out in 2015 in the Paris Agreement on climate change.
“Last year’s developments sound yet another warning alarm that the world is on an unsustainable path,” he added.
The increase in energy usage was driven by China, the US and India, which together accounted for more than two-thirds of the higher demand, while global oil production increased at a rate of more than double the historical average.
Mr Dale attributed the surge in demand to extreme weather patterns, which resulted in more frequent use of both air-conditioning and heating, as well as a cyclical upswing in China’s industrial output.
In the US alone, energy consumption jumped by 3.5pc, marking the fastest growth rate seen in 30 years and a reversal of a previous trend of decline, while demand for oil grew at its fastest pace in more than a decade.
Globally, oil, gas and coal accounted for almost three-quarters of the growth in energy use, the highest share for more than five years.
The increase in oil consumption was largely driven by the developing world, with India and China accounting for two-thirds of the global rise.
There was also a “bonanza” in natural gas consumption and production, which rose by more than 5pc, again a 30-year record.
This was mostly thanks to the US, where shale gas has unlocked new sources of energy and dirtier coal-fired plants are being decommissioned. The US, China, Russia and Iran accounted for four-fifths of the global growth in demand for natural gas.
Coal also enjoyed a comeback last year, as consumption and production increased at a faster rate than at any time over the past five years, driven by India and China.
The trend casts doubt on forecasts that the world had reached peak demand for coal, Mr Dale said.
Encouragingly, renewable energy consumption soared by 14.5pc, and it remains the world’s fastest growing energy source by some margin.
India and China increased their use of renewables and together accounted for half of global growth. There was also increased capacity, with record numbers of countries using renewable energy to generate 20pc of their power needs.
Despite this, BP warned growth in the renewables sector was not enough to satisfy rising demand for energy, with the report warning of “a growing mismatch between hopes and reality” when it comes to meeting carbon emissions targets.