Global CO2 emissions are set to jump by 1.5 gigatonnes in 2021 – led by a rebound in coal demand mainly from the power sector, International Energy Agency Executive Director Fatih Birol said on April 20. “It would be the second largest rise in emissions ever. This economic recovery is anything but sustainable for our climate,” he wrote in a tweet.
As the world enters a second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, IEA’s annual Global Energy Review assessed the direction energy demand and carbon dioxide emissions are taking in 2021.
The latest statistical data and real-time analysis confirm IEA’s initial estimates for 2020 energy demand and CO2 emissions while providing insights into how economic activity and energy use are rebounding in countries around the world – and what this means for global emissions, the IEA said.
The accelerating rollouts of COVID-19 vaccinations in many major economies and widespread fiscal responses to the economic crisis are boosting the outlook for economic growth and leading to a rebound in energy demand in 2021.
Despite an expected annual increase of 6.2% in 2021, global oil demand is set to remain around 3% below 2019 levels. Oil use for road transport is not projected to reach pre-COVID levels until the end of 2021. Oil use for aviation is projected to remain 20% below 2019 levels even in December 2021, with annual demand more than 30% lower than in 2019. A full return to pre-crisis oil demand levels would have pushed up CO2 emissions a further 1.5%, putting them well above 2019 levels.
Coal demand is on course to rise 4.5% in 2021, with more than 80% of the growth concentrated in Asia, the IEA said, adding that China alone is projected to account for over 50% of global growth. Coal demand in the United States and the European Union is also rebounding, but is still set to remain well below pre-crisis levels. The power sector accounted for only 50% of the drop in coal-related emissions in 2020. But the rapid increase in coal-fired generation in Asia means the power sector is expected to account for 80% of the rebound in 2021.
Natural gas demand is set to grow by 3.2% in 2021, propelled by increasing demand in Asia, the Middle East and Russia. This is expected to put global demand more than 1% above 2019 levels. In the US – the world’s largest natural gas market – the annual increase in demand is set to amount to less than 20% of the 20 billion cubic meter decline in 2020, squeezed by the continued growth of renewables and rising natural gas prices. Nearly three-quarters of the global demand growth in 2021 is from the industry and buildings sectors, while electricity generation from natural gas remains below 2019 levels.
Electricity demand is due to increase by 4.5% in 2021, or over 1 000 TWh. This is almost five times greater than the decline in 2020, cementing electricity’s share in final energy demand above 20%. Almost 80% of the projected increase in demand in 2021 is in emerging market and developing economies, with China alone accounting for half of global growth. Demand in advanced economies remains below 2019 levels, the IEA said.
Demand for renewables grew by 3% in 2020 and is set to increase across all key sectors – power, heating, industry and transport – in 2021. The power sector leads the way, with its demand for renewables on course to expand by more than 8%, to reach 8 300 TWh, the largest year-on-year growth on record in absolute terms.
Renewables remain the success story of the COVID 19 era
Solar PV and wind are expected to contribute two-thirds of renewables’ growth, the IEA saoid, adding that the share of renewables in electricity generation is projected to increase to almost 30% in 2021, their highest share since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and up from less than 27% in 2019. Wind is on track to record the largest increase in renewable generation, growing by 275 TWh, or around 17%, from 2020. Solar PV electricity generation is expected to rise by 145 TWh, or almost 18%, and to approach 1 000 TWh in 2021.
It is followed by the United States, the EU and India. China is expected to generate over 900 TWh from solar PV and wind in 2021, the European Union around 580 TWh, and the United States 550 TWh. Together, they represent almost three-quarters of global solar PV and wind output.