Global carbon dioxide emissions from energy are expected to increase by around 1 percent this year. According to the Global Carbon Project, in 2022, nations are projected to emit about 36.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from coal, natural gas and oil–slightly more than the previous record in 2019. China is responsible for the majority of carbon dioxide emissions accounting for 32 percent, followed by the United States with 14 percent, and the European Union and India both with 8 percent. China’s Xi Jinping, who controls the supply chain for the world’s renewable energy manufacturing, did not travel to COP27, although President Joe Biden visited for 3 hours.
Emission Estimate Changes by Country
China’s emissions are projected to decline by about 0.9 percent this year, its first drop since 2016, as frequent coronavirus lockdowns and a slowdown in property development led to declines in fossil fuel and cement use. In Europe, emissions are also expected to drop by about 0.8 percent this year, primarily because of a decline in natural gas consumption after Russia cut off supplies. The drop in emissions occurs despite coal consumption increasing, as countries like Germany and Austria restarted idled coal-fired power plants to ease their energy shortfalls. In the United States, emissions are projected to increase around 1.5 percent this year, driven by an increase in natural gas and oil as the economy picked up and air travel recovers from the pandemic lockdowns. In India, emissions are expected to increase by nearly 6 percent, surpassing the European Union and making India the world’s third-largest emitter.
In the rest of the world, carbon emissions from energy are expected to increase by about 1.7 percent this year. Emissions from coal are likely to hit record highs, in part because many countries are shifting over to coal in response to significantly higher natural gas prices, and searching for baseload electricity to lift their people from poverty.
Emissions from Deforestation Decline
The annual amount of carbon dioxide released by deforestation and changes in land use is estimated to have declined over the past two decades, to around 3.9 billion tons in 2022. Including that data results in total carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and land use staying roughly flat since 2015. Forests appear to be expanding or recovering in many regions, including on abandoned farmland in Europe. As those trees grow, they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which has helped offset a fraction of the emissions produced by deforestation. Deforestation is high in Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Estimates of emissions from deforestation are uncertain since estimating how much carbon dioxide is actually released when farmers clear away rainforests or set fire to peat lands is difficult to determine.
U.S. Energy Transition Accelerator
The United States has a plan to use voluntary carbon markets to accelerate the energy transition in poor countries. John Kerry, the U.S. climate envoy, launched the scheme, known as the Energy Transition Accelerator (ETA), at the United Nations’ COP27 conference at a resort in Egypt, in collaboration with the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bezos Earth Fund. According to Kerry, “Our intention is to put the carbon market to work to deploy capital to speed the transition from dirty to clean power specifically, to retire unabated coal-fired power and accelerate the buildout of renewables.”
Voluntary carbon markets are those where companies get emissions credits in return for providing cash to poor countries that cut their carbon output. In the past, these markets have often been riddled with fraud and double-counting. Australia, for example, appointed a scientist to lead a six-month review of the country’s carbon credits following allegations that some projects earning credits are not really adding to carbon emissions reductions. Many critics think rich countries should just give cash to countries to close coal plants or tax fossil fuel companies to get the money. The ETA is designed to prevent new coal plants from opening up where old ones have been closed, even though such new plants would be cleaner and more efficient than the old plants.
Issues with the ETA
One issue is that the ETA has not provided the criteria for determining what constitutes an offset. Another concern is that the ETA is planning to use cash not only to close coal plants but also to ramp up renewable energy since countries need money to accelerate the transition to solar and wind power. A solar or a wind plant, however, does not result in as many emission reductions as shuttering a coal plant. The ETA partners know that their plan is not yet fully developed and welcome suggestions.
Carbon dioxide emissions from energy consumption are expected to increase in 2022 as countries continue to recover from the COVID lockdowns and as Europe turns to coal to replace natural gas supplies cut by Russia in retaliation for sanctions that Western countries placed on it due to its invasion of Ukraine. If the estimate of 36.6 billion metric tons is correct, global carbon dioxide emissions from energy will exceed emissions in 2019—the last global record.
To close coal plants in developing countries, the U.S. climate envoy, John Kerry launched a scheme at COP27 for voluntary emission credits that companies would get for paying for coal plants to close in poor countries. Critics feel there are a number of problems with the plan and the developers agree that it still needs to be scoped out. One thing for sure is that the plan does not pay attention to the issues expressed by Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni where he pointed out Europe’s “reprehensible double standard” on energy. With Kerry’s plan, it can be expected that developing nations will continue to demand enormous sums from the United States and other rich nations in order to develop intermittent renewable energy systems with all their inherent costs and drawbacks.