Global carbon emissions are set to hit an all-time high in 2018 – according to researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Global Carbon Project. The new data for 2018 reveals that global emissions from burning fossil fuels are expected to reach 37.1 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2018. CO2 emissions have now risen for a second year, after three years of little-to-no growth from 2014 to 2016. The rise this year is projected at 2.7%. In 2017 it was 1.6%.
The 10 biggest emitters in 2018 are China, the US, India, Russia, Japan, Germany, Iran, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Canada. The EU as a whole region of countries ranks third.
What is driving the rise?
This year’s rising emission figures are largely due to solid growth in coal use, but coal still remains below its historical high in 2013. Coal use may soon exceed this 2013 peak if current growth continues.
Oil use is growing strongly in most regions, with a rise in emissions from cars and lorries, including in the US and Europe. Flights have also contributed to the oil rise. Gas use has grown almost unabated in recent years.
CO2 emissions from deforestation and other human activities on land contributed an additional 5 billion tonnes of CO2 this year, bringing total CO2 emissions to 41.5 billion tonnes of CO2. The global trends in those emissions are unclear due to large uncertainties in the data.
Concentrations CO2 in the atmosphere are set to increase by around 2.3 ppm on average in 2018 in response to continued CO2 emissions, to reach about 407 ppm over the year. This is 45% above pre-industrial levels.
The good news
Countering rising global emissions are 19 countries where emissions have reduced and their economy has grown. Aruba, Barbados, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, Malta, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, the UK, the US, and Uzbekistan have all decreased their emissions over the past decade (2008-2017).
Deployment of renewable energy worldwide is accelerating exponentially, with electricity generation growing at 15% per year on average over the last decade. But this has not been enough to offset the growth in fossil energy because renewables are growing from a low base. This is changing rapidly.
How different countries compare
Almost all countries have contributed to the rise in global emissions, either through growth in emissions or through reductions that are slower than expected.
China’s emissions account for 27% of the global total, having grown an estimated 4.7% in 2018 and reaching a new all-time high. The growth in emissions is linked to construction activity and economic growth. Energy from renewables is growing by 25% per year, but from a low base.
Emissions in the US account for 15% of the global total, and look set to have grown about 2.5% in 2018 after several years in decline. The new rise is due to robust growth in oil use of about 1.4%, associated with an increase in car journeys, and gas of about 7.6%. Emissions from coal use look set to have decreased by around –2.1% in 2018, continuing a shift away from coal, with a 40% decrease in CO2 emissions from coal since 2007, mainly towards gas, and more recently also towards renewables for power generation.
EU emissions account for 10% of global emissions and a small decline of around –0.7% is projected, well below the declines of −2% per year in the decade up to 2014. Estimated declines in coal and gas use due to the growth in renewable energy have been partially offset by a growth in oil use. The amount of fuel used for road transport and flights has surged by around 4% in the EU. Overall EU emissions are still near or above their 2014 levels.
India’s emissions, accounting for 7% of the global total, have continued to grow by around 6.3%, as their economy booms. Wind and solar are growing fast, albeit from a low base.
Emissions in the rest of the world, the remaining 42% of global emissions, are expected to grow about 1.8% this year. The five countries contributing most to the rest-of-the-world growth in global emissions in the last decade are Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Iraq and South Korea.
Source: Global Carbon Project & University of East Anglia