Receive our newsletter – data, insights and analysis delivered to you
  1. Policy
  2. Net Zero
18 October 2021updated 10 Nov 2021 7:39am

Weekly data: Booming fossil fuels suggest 2020 climate win was temporary

Coal and gas production will exceed pre-pandemic levels in 2021, with oil set to do so by 2023, according to current trajectories.

By Nick Ferris

The environmental impact of lockdown was one of the few positives of the Covid-19 pandemic. With commercial electricity demand lower and international transport suspended, coal, oil and gas production fell by 3.1%, 4.8% and 19%, respectively, in 2020 compared with 2019, shows data from GlobalData.

CO2 emissions fell by 7% in 2020, a drop the UN estimates will be needed every year from now to 2050 to reach net zero.

A crude oil pump jack at at an oilfield at sundown. (Photo by Maksim Safaniuk via Shutterstock)

However, data shows that last year’s climate progress may prove very temporary. In 2021, hand-in-hand with the global economic recovery, coal and gas production are set to exceed levels recorded in 2019, while current trajectories would see oil doing so by 2023. CO2 emissions are set to increase this year by around 5%, estimates the International Energy Agency (IEA).

“The demand fall during the pandemic was entirely linked to governments’ decision to restrict movements and had nothing to do with the energy transition,” Cuneyt Kazokoglu, an analyst at consultancy FGE, told Reuters. “The energy transition and decarbonisation are decade-long strategies and do not happen overnight.”

Content from our partners
Reimagining the carbon problem
How investing in Scotland can help to drive a low-carbon future
Beyond smart: How the grid-interactive building will form an essential component of the new energy system

The inability of fossil fuel production to keep up with booming demand is a major factor behind the current global energy crisis, even as world leaders prepare to head to Glasgow for crucial climate talks at COP26.

In the power sector, renewables are nevertheless continuing to boom. By 2022, annual additions of solar and wind will both be around 50% higher than they were in 2019, estimates the IEA. However, electricity demand growth, largely driven by industrialising economies in Asia, continues to outstrip growth in renewables.

[Keep up with Energy Monitor: Subscribe to our weekly newsletter]

In the first half of 2021, CO2 emissions from electricity generation were about 5% higher than in the first half of 2019, estimates an analysis from think tank Ember. This is due to fossil fuels meeting the world’s surging electricity demand alongside new renewables. While wind and solar met 57% of the demand rise, coal met the remaining 43%.

“Catapulting emissions in 2021 should send alarm bells across the world,” said Ember’s Dave Jones. “We are not building back better, we are building back badly.”

Topics in this article: , , ,
NEWSLETTER Sign up Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Switch on the week and Switch it off again with our round-up, sent Mondays and Fridays
I consent to GlobalData UK Limited collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy
SUBSCRIBED

THANK YOU