Carbon emissions failing to decline, even with international targets, IEA says

Emissions have reached an all-time high since the signing of the Paris Agreement

Biofuels such as sustainable charcoal could provide alternatives to more emissions-intensive energy sources. Ahtziri Gonzalez, CIFOR
8 December 2019

The world is failing to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide because countries are still too reliant on fossil fuels, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said at the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP 25) in Madrid.

“We see huge disparities between targets and what is happening in real life,” said Fatih Birol, IEA executive director, during a presentation. “With no policy changes, global emissions will skyrocket.”

Since the Paris Agreement on climate change was adopted in 2015, global emissions have reached “an all-time high,” he said, noting that annual emissions of CO2 are now a full gigaton higher than four years ago.

Climate policies promised by governments around the world will at best stabilize emissions in the coming decades, but won’t reduce them, Birol said. Efforts to boost energy efficiency are losing momentum, sales of larger sports utility vehicles are rising and introduction of low-carbon technologies from renewable energy to hydrogen are not moving fast enough.

The IEA update comes amid efforts at climate talks to make progress on restoring farms, forests and other landscapes in order to sequester more carbon from ecosystems. Land-use accounts for roughly a third of anthropogenic emissions.

So-called nature-based solutions are important, but we need to absolutely reduce our use of fossil fuels, said Christopher Martius, principal scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research. “It’s remarkable that no one in this session addressed the issue of fossil fuel subsidies that are worth trillions of dollars.”

The world will continue to require going supplies of energy, but without the associated emissions, said Birol. “We need energy. But our problem is with emissions. Otherwise there will be huge implications for our planet that none of us would like to see.”


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