The Global Carbon Budget 2019 was presented during a side event at the COP25 on December 4, 2019 as a major collaboration between 76 people, 58 organisations and over 13 countries to which VERIFY is one of the main funding schemes.

 Global Carbon2

(source: CDIAC; NOAA-ESRL; Friedlingstein et al 2019;Ciais et al. 2013; Global Carbon Budget 2019)

Today, the Global Carbon Project (GCP) publishes its annual analysis of trends in the global carbon cycle, including the first full-year estimate of the increase in global fossil carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2019. This release includes three papers in the journals Nature Climate Change, Environmental Research Letters, and Earth System Science Data.

Global carbon emissions are set to grow more slowly in 2019, with a decline in coal burning offset by strong growth in natural gas and oil use worldwide.

Emissions from burning fossil fuels are projected to grow by 0.6 per cent (range: –0.2 to +1.5 per cent) this year to reach almost 37 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2). This is down from 1.5 per cent in 2017 and 2.1 per cent in 2018.

This lower rate of growth is due to substantial declines in coal use in the EU and US, and slower growth in coal use in China and India compared to recent years. Weaker economic growth has also contributed to this trend.

Natural gas has seen the fastest fossil fuel emissions growth in 2019, with a projected increase of 2.6 per cent (+1.3 to +3.9 per cent). Oil used in transport is also driving emissions up, with a projected increase of 0.9 per cent (+0.3 to +1.6 per cent) this year, while emissions from coal burning are projected to decrease by 0.9 per cent (-2.0 to +0.2 per cent).

Emissions this year are likely to be 4 per cent higher than in 2015, the year of the UN Paris Agreement.

As international Governments gather at the UN Conference of the Parties (COP25) in Madrid, the team behind the annual update of the Global Carbon Project call for policies directed at phasing out the use of fossil fuels, in addition to more urgent and large-scale deployment of renewable energy and other low-carbon technologies.

Lead researcher Prof Pierre Friedlingstein, of the University of Exeter, said: “A failure to promptly tackle the driving factors behind continued emissions growth will limit the world’s ability to shift to a pathway consistent with 1.5°C or well below 2°C of global warming, the aim of the Paris Climate Agreement.

“The science is clear, CO2 emissions need to decrease to net zero globally to stop further significant warming of the planet.”

On a positive note, the slower growth in 2019 is aligned with trends of the past decade. Global fossil CO2 emissions grew on average 0.9 per cent a year since 2010, slower than the 3 per cent a year of the 2000’s.

Looking at the different world regions,almost all countries have contributed to the rise in global emissions; either by growth in emissions or reductions that are slower than required.

US and EU emission trend

US emissions have declined at 1.1% per year since the peak in 2005, and that trend continues in 2019 with a decrease of –1.7% (range: –3.7% to 0.3%), offsetting a weather-related increase in emissions in 2018, which drove up demand for heating in cold months and for cooling in hot months.

The US emissions decrease in 2019 has been driven by a 10% drop in emissions from coal use, with coal being replaced by cheap gas, wind, and solar. CO2 emissions from the decline in coal (–10%) and oil use (–0.5%) were partly offset by increases in natural gas consumption (3.5%).

Emissions in the EU28 have fallen steadily by –1.4% per year in the last decade and are projected to decrease by –1.7% in 2019 (range: –3.4% to +0.1%). Despite the expected decline in coal use of around 10%, growth in the consumption of oil and natural gas will make the emissions reduction rate lower than in 2018 (–2.1%).

Chinese and Indian emissions growth

China had low growth and unexpected declines in CO2 emissions over the period 2014 to 2016, but in 2017 and 2018 CO2 emissions rose again by 1.7% and 2.3%, respectively. In 2019, China’s CO2 emissions are expected to rise by 2.6% (range +0.7% to +4.4%). Chinese emissions could have been growing faster if it were not for slower economic growth and weaker growth in electricity demand.

“China uses half of all coal in the world, and coal looks set to stay the biggest source of both energy and CO2 emissions in China for many years to come,” said Jan Ivar Korsbakken, Senior Researcher at CICERO.

China has seen low growth in electricity demand so far in 2019, and no growth in coal-fired electricity generation, as an increase in power production from renewables and nuclear plants has been able to meet most of the demand growth.

But stronger growth in the production of steel, cement and other coal-intensive industrial products has kept coal consumption afloat. Oil and gas use continue to grow rapidly, and together they now contribute more to emissions growth in China than coal.

Indian CO2 emissions have grown at 5.1% per year over the last decade, but growth is expected to be much weaker in 2019 at 1.8% (range: +0.7% to +3.7%). Weak economic growth in India has led to slower growth in oil and natural gas use. With a weakening economy, growth in India’s generation of electricity has slowed from 6% per year to under 1% in 2019, despite electrification of villages adding to potential demand. Moreover, the addition of a very wet monsoon led to very high hydro generation and a decline in generation from coal.

Emissions in the rest of the world – the remaining 42% of global emissions – are expected to grow about 0.5% in 2019 (range –0.8% to +1.8%), much lower than in the previous decade.

Continued growth in emissions drives increases in atmospheric concentrations

Global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry will reach around 36.8 billion tonnes in 2019, a record high. Preliminary estimates of land-use change for 2019 suggested a value of 6 billion tonnes CO2, which is 0.8 billion tonnes CO2 higher than in 2018 due to an increase in forest fires.

Meanwhile, global carbon dioxide emissions from all human activities (fossil fuels, industry, and land-use change) are expected to reach 43.1 billion tonnes in 2019 (range: 39.9 to 46.2 GtCO2).

Atmospheric CO2 concentration reached 407.4 parts per million in 2018 on average and is projected to increase by 2.2 ppm in 2019 (+1.8 to +2.6ppm) to reach about 410 ppm. This increase is near the average of the past decade because of the return to El Niño neutral conditions, but above previous decades due to rising CO2 emissions.

(source: press releases from CICERO and UEA).