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Global carbon emissions from energy to plateau this decade: S&P Global Platts Analytics

Highlights

CO2 emissions from energy to stop rising after 2027

Asian coal burn to offset reductions from power, transport

Paris Agreement trajectory still a distant prospect

London — Global CO2 emissions from energy consumption are expected to hit a plateau this decade before starting to decline after 2035, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics Scenario Planning Service.

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The falling trend after this date, however, is not steep enough to match a 2 degrees Celsius global warming pathway, the figures show.

"The fact that CO2 emissions stop growing is a remarkable feat, considering continuous economic and population growth over the long-term," said Dan Klein, Platts Analytics' head of scenario planning.

"Renewables will be the fastest growing source of energy over the long-term, more than doubling current production by 2040. However, this high level of renewables growth is not expected to cover all of the world's energy demand growth over this period, and growth in fossil fuel demand will be required," he said June 23.

The slow fall in global CO2 emissions in the latter 2030s reflects decarbonization of electricity generation and the emergence of cleaner transport fuels in OECD countries, but these gains will partially be offset by rising use of coal for power generation in Asia, the figures show.

Related infographic: Platts Carbon Emissions Playbook maps climate change challenge

"Even though [global] coal demand has peaked and we are headed for a peak in oil demand, they are more of a gentle decline or a plateau rather than the sharp reductions required to meet 2 degree or 1.5 degree temperature targets," said Klein.

An interactive visual based on Platts Analytics' World Energy Demand model shows CO2 emissions from coal-fired power in China continuing to rise to about 4.6 billion mt by 2025 before easing back to just over 3.8 billion mt by 2040.

That's almost three times the annual volume of CO2 emitted by all of Europe's regulated power plants and heavy industrial facilities combined.

Forecasts for the US show CO2 emissions more evenly spread across the various sectors, with coal-fired power plant emissions having already peaked in 2005 at 1.91 billion mt, and forecast to fall to just over 400 million mt by 2040, as cleaner forms of power take over.

Europe's success in decarbonizing the electricity-generating sector is forecast to continue, although CO2 emissions from petroleum-based fuels for transportation are expected to be harder to reduce, particularly for non-car transport modes, the forecasts show.

The expected drop in CO2 emissions in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic is deeper than the annual reduction needed to meet a 2 C temperature trajectory, the data show.

However, CO2 emissions are expected to rebound in 2021 as economies recover, opening a gap between CO2 output and Platts Analytics' 2 C degrees pathway.

The forecasts show global CO2 output from energy combustion at over 33 billion mt by 2050, far in excess of the 15.7 billion mt Platts Analytics estimates needed to maintain temperature increases below 2 C, which is a goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

"In the near term, the challenges addressing rising CO2 emissions will be tight fiscal budgets globally in the wake of COVID-19," said Klein.

While some countries, notably European countries, appear to be crafting stimulus packages geared toward clean energy, most countries cannot and will not make such policies a priority, he said.

"More broadly, driving CO2 emissions lower will require governments, industries, and ultimately consumers to pay more for cleaner energy. Developing nations will likely prioritize access to energy at low costs above clean energy," he said.