Renewables are set for their biggest ever share of power generation in 2021 – but resurgent coal power is set to drive emissions to their second-largest increase in history, said the International Energy Agency (IEA) as it flagged a “dire warning” over climate progress.
Global energy-related CO2 emissions will rise by 5% to 33 billion tonnes this year – the biggest annual increase since 2010 – in a carbon-led recovery from the Covid pandemic that will see total global energy demand grow by 4.6% year-on-year to above 2019 levels, the IEA predicts in latest forecasts for its Global Energy Review 2021.
The main culprit is a bounceback for coal-fired generation in the power sector, which is likely to grow by almost 4.5%, putting it back near its 2014 peak, in a resurgence led by China and other Asian markets.
Gas demand will also exceed its 2019 pre-Covid level while “oil is also rebounding strongly but is expected to stay below its 2019 peak, as the aviation sector remains under pressure,” said the IEA.
IEA executive director Fatih Birol said: “Global carbon emissions are set to jump by 1.5 billion tonnes this year – driven by in the resurgence of coal use in the power sector. This is a dire warning that the economic recovery from the Covid crisis is currently anything but sustainable for our climate.”
“Unless governments around the world move rapidly to start cutting emissions, we are likely to face an even worse situation in 2022. The Leaders Summit on Climate hosted by US President Joe Biden this week is a critical moment to commit to clear and immediate action ahead of COP26 in Glasgow.”
The grim outlook on coal and emissions overshadowed the IEA’s predictions of a best-ever showing for renewables, with wind and solar on course for record growth.
Renewables as a whole will deliver 8% more power year-on-year and provide 30% of global generation, “their biggest share of the power mix since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution”, said the IEA.
Wind will deliver 17% more power, or 275TWh, while solar PV will grow by 18%, or 145TWh. Between them the two key renewables sources will generate 2,800TWh this year, the IEA reckons.