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  • Bryan Rodriguez

Global CO2 Emissions from Energy Rebounded in 2021, Reaching Their Highest Level in History


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A new analysis from the International Energy Administration (IEA) shows global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the energy sector reached an all-time high in 2021 as economies rebounded from the pandemic.


Some highlights:


Global energy-related CO2 emissions rose by 6% in 2021, reaching 36.3 billion metric tons, the highest level ever measured, according to the IEA.

  • Coal accounted for 40% of the overall growth of global CO2 emissions, reaching an all-time high of 15.3 billion metric tons.

  • Natural gas-related CO2 emissions also rebounded well above their 2019 levels, reaching 7.5 billion metric tons.

  • Oil remained significantly below pre-pandemic levels, accounting for 10.7 billion metric tons of CO2 emitted, mostly due to the limited recovery of air travel.


The analysis found China is largely responsible for the rise in global CO2 emissions, increasing by 750 million metric tons from 2019 to 2021.

  • China’s total CO2 emissions rose above 11.9 billion metric tons in 2021, representing 33% of the global total.

  • For comparison, the U.S., E.U., and Japan all experienced a decrease in CO2 emissions from pre-pandemic levels.


The analysis involved region-by-region and fuel-by-fuel evaluations, and included official figures from national governments, as well as publicly available energy, economic, and weather data.


Why it matters:

The IEA says the world’s carbon-intensive economic recovery from the pandemic hasn’t been sustainable, and efforts to decarbonize must be ramped up.

  • On a positive note, the analysis also found that renewable sources and nuclear power together provided a larger percentage of electricity generation than coal in 2021.

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