CARBON EMISSIONS (IEA)
consumption in 2018 increased at nearly twice the average rate of growth since
2010, driven by a robust global economy and higher heating and cooling needs in
some parts of the world. Demand for all fuels increased, led by natural gas,
even as solar and wind posted double digit growth. Higher electricity demand
was responsible for over half of the growth in energy needs. Energy efficiency
saw lacklustre improvement. As a result of higher energy consumption, CO2
emissions rose 1.7% last year and hit a new record.
While emissions from
all fossil fuels increased, the power sector accounted for nearly two-thirds of
emissions growth. Coal use in power alone surpassed 10 Gt CO2, mostly in Asia.
China, India, and the United States accounted for 85% of the net increase in
emissions, while emissions declined for Germany, Japan, Mexico, France and the
CO2 emissions grew 1.7% in 2018 to reach a historic high of 33.1 Gt CO2. It was
the highest rate of growth since 2013, and 70% higher than the average increase
since 2010. Last year’s growth of 560 Mt was equivalent to the total emissions
from international aviation.
The increase in
emissions was driven by higher energy consumption resulting from a robust
global economy, as well as from weather conditions in some parts of the world
that led to increased energy demand for heating and cooling.
CO2 emissions stagnated
between 2014 and 2016, even as the global economy continued to expand. This
decoupling was primarily the result of strong energy efficiency improvements
and low-carbon technology deployment, leading to a decline in coal demand. But
the dynamics changed in 2017 and 2018. Higher economic growth was not met by
higher energy productivity, lower-carbon options did not scale fast enough to
meet the rise in demand.
The result was that CO2
emissions increased by nearly 0.5% for every 1% gain in global economic output
compared with an increase of 0.3% on average since 2010. Renewables and nuclear
energy have nonetheless made an impact, with emissions growing 25% slower than
energy demand in 2018.
For the first time, the
IEA assessed the impact of fossil fuel use on global temperature increases. It
found that CO2 emitted from coal combustion was responsible for over 0.3°C of
the 1°C increase in global average annual surface temperatures above
pre-industrial levels. This makes coal the single largest source of global
The global average
annual concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere averaged 407.4 ppm in 2018, up
2.4 ppm since 2017. This is a major increase from pre-industrial levels, which
ranged between 180 and 280 ppm.
In fact, coal-fired
power plants were the single largest contributor to the growth in emissions
observed in 2018, with an increase of 2.9%, or 280 Mt, compared with 2017
levels, exceeding 10 Gt for the first time.
As a result, coal-fired
electricity generation accounted for 30% of global CO2 emissions. The majority
of that generation is found today in Asia, where average plants are only 12
years old, decades younger than their average economic lifetime of around 40
Despite growth in coal
use, fuel switching between coal and gas accelerated in 2018, reducing the
carbon intensity of global energy use. Driven by economics and policies,
coal-to-gas switching avoided almost 60 Mt of coal demand, with the transition
to less carbon-intensive natural gas helping avert 95 Mt of CO2 emissions.
Without this coal-to-gas switch, the increase in emissions would have been more
than 15% greater. This switch, most significant in China and the United States,
reduced emissions by 45 Mt and 40 Mt, respectively.
Increased use of
renewables in 2018 had an even greater impact on CO2 emissions, avoiding 215 Mt
of emissions, the vast majority of which is due to the transition to renewables
in the power sector.
The savings from
renewables was led by China and Europe, together contributing two-thirds to the
global total. Increased generation from nuclear power plants also reduced emissions,
averting nearly 60 Mt of CO2 emissions. Overall, without the transition to
low-carbon sources of energy in 2018, emissions growth would have been 50%
Energy efficiency was
the largest brake on emissions growth in 2018, but its contribution was around
40% lower than in 2017, largely because of a continued slowdown in implementing
energy efficiency policies.
For the first time in
almost a decade, 2018 saw an increase in plans to develop large-scale carbon
capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) facilities. By the end of 2018, the
number of projects operating, under construction, or under serious
consideration increased to 43. China is operating a new facility to capture CO2
from natural gas processing for use in enhanced oil recovery, and, in Europe,
five new projects are under development.
In China, CO2 emissions
grew by 2.5%, or 230 Mt, to 9.5 Gt. A jump of over 5% in electricity generation
from coal-fired power stations drove up emissions by 250 Mt, which more than
offset the impact of a decline in coal use outside of the power sector. An
80-Mt growth in emissions from gas combustion came predominantly from outside
of the power sector, as gas was increasingly chosen as a substitute for
In the United States,
the emission reductions seen in 2017 were reversed, with an increase of 3.1% in
CO2 emissions in 2018. Despite this increase, emissions in the United States
remain around their 1990 levels, 14% and 800 Mt of CO2 below their peak in 2000.
This is the largest absolute decline among all countries since 2000.
The impact of weather
conditions was especially marked in the United States, driving up cooling and
heating needs and accounting for about 60% of the emissions increase in 2018.
India saw emissions
rise by 4.8%, or 105 Mt, with the growth split evenly between power and other
sectors such as transport and industry. Despite this growth, per capita
emissions in India remain low at only 40% of the global average.
Across Europe emissions
fell by 1.3%, or 50 Mt. The emissions decline was driven by a drop of 4.5% in
Germany, as both oil and coal combustion fell sharply. The drop in coal
consumption was concentrated in the power sector, where generation from
renewables reached a record high of 37% of the electricity mix. Electricity
generation from renewables also saw a record year in the United Kingdom,
accounting for 35% of generation, as the share of coal fell to 5%, a record
As a result, CO2
emissions in the United Kingdom declined for a sixth year, hitting some of the
lowest levels recorded since 1888. France also saw a significant drop in
emissions, as electricity generation from hydroelectric and nuclear power
stations meant that coal and gas plants saw lower utilisation in 2018 than in
Emissions declined in
Japan for a fifth year, with a decline across all fossil fuels largely due to
both continued improvements in energy efficiency and the increase in generation
from nuclear power stations as reactors came back online. In Mexico, emissions
declined for the second consecutive year, after a three-year increase in
emissions in the power sector was reversed last year.