Global Emissions Likely Peaked in 2019


Global carbon emissions from energy use dropped 8 percent in 2020 due to coronavirus-related economic shutdowns — a decline equal to two-and-a-half years of energy sector emissions, according to a new report from the energy research group BloombergNEF (BNEF). The drop means that global greenhouse gas emissions likely peaked in 2019, the report found, and will not rise to that level again even as the global economy rebounds from the pandemic.

According to the report — BNEF’s annual New Energy Outlook — emissions will rise gradually from now to 2027 as the economy recovers, but will then decline 0.7 percent year-to-year until 2050. Wind and solar energy, alongside battery storage, will supply 56 percent of the world’s electricity demand by 2050, with some countries generating as much as 80 percent of demand. Despite this projected progress, however, the world will still be on track to warm 3.3 degrees Celsius by 2100, the analysis finds.

To keep global warming well below 2 degrees C, the report concluded, emissions need to fall 10 times faster, at 6 percent per year until 2050. This would require investing as much as $130 trillion in clean energy and green hydrogen technology between now and 2050, including having 100,000 terawatt-hours of installed renewable capacity — six to eight times what currently exists. To limit warming to 1.5 degrees C, the required emissions reduction rate would be 10 percent.

“The next 10 years will be crucial for the energy transition,” Jon Moore, CEO of BNEF, said in a statement. “There are three key things that we will need to see: accelerated deployment of wind and PV; faster consumer uptake in electric vehicles, small-scale renewables, and low-carbon heating technology, such as heat pumps; and scaled-up development and deployment of zero-carbon fuels.”

The report did find that oil demand will peak in 2035 and subsequently fall 0.7 percent each year to 2050. Electric cars will become price competitive with internal combustion vehicles before the mid-2020s, and then will overtake them, further cutting into oil demand. Coal demand peaked in 2018 and will continue to fall, making up just 18 percent of electricity generation by mid-century, down from 26 percent today. Natural gas usage, however, will continue to grow, increasing 0.5 percent per year.