COP27: Carbon emissions from fossil fuels climb to new highs, scientists warn

Global carbon emissions in 2022 remain at record highs, with no sign of the falls needed to curb dangerous climate change, scientists have warned.

If the world continues with existing levels of emissions, there is a 50 per cent chance that global temperature rises will hit 1.5C – a threshold beyond which the worst impacts of climate change are expected – in nine years, they said.

Emissions would have to fall at rates comparable to 2020 – when Covid-19 restrictions shut down transport, industry and economic activities – every year to keep temperature rises to 1.5C in the long term, the experts say.

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But carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels has risen 1 per cent on 2021 levels, the analysis from the Global Carbon Project says, and is now slightly above the record levels seen in 2019.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi walks through crowds at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt. Picture: AP Photo/Peter Dejong
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The increase in carbon dioxide from fossil fuels, including cement production, is due to the ongoing recovery from the pandemic and the energy crisis caused by the invasion of Ukraine, the researchers said.

Total carbon emissions for 2022, which also includes deforestation and other land use changes, are set to be around 40.6 billion tonnes, up slightly from 2021 and close to the record 40.9 billion tonnes emitted pre-pandemic in 2019.

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The Global Carbon Project has involved more than 100 scientists from 80 organisations across 18 countries, and its results – published in the journal Earth System Science Data – come as countries meet for the latest round of climate talks, COP27, in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

While the rate of growth in emissions has slowed, the world is not taking the action required to make them peak and decline rapidly to limit temperature rises, the scientists said.

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Professor Pierre Friedlingstein, from the University of Exeter’s Global Systems Institute, who led the study said: “This year we see yet another rise in global fossil carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, when we need a rapid decline.

“There are some positive signs, but leaders meeting at COP27 will have to take meaningful action if we are to have any chance of limiting global warming close to 1.5C.”

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Professor Corinne Le Quere, from the University of East Anglia’s School of Environmental Sciences, said: “Our findings reveal turbulence in emissions patterns this year resulting from the pandemic and global energy crises.

“If governments respond by turbo-charging clean energy investments and planting, not cutting, trees, global emissions could rapidly start to fall.”

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She said there was evidence climate policy could work, with emissions growth slowing significantly in recent years, since the Paris Agreement to limit warming to well below 2C or to 1.5C, and the future was in people’s control.

“We are at a turning point and must not allow world events to distract us from the urgent and sustained need to cut our emissions to stabilise the global climate and reduce cascading risks,” she said.

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The report showed that in 2022 emissions from oil are up 2.2 per cent on last year, largely due to a continued rebound in aviation post-pandemic.

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