Higher energy demand drove up global CO2 emissions in 2018
Global energy demand grew by 2.3% in 2018, its fastest pace this decade, thanks to a strong global economy and higher demand for heating and cooling, according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) second annual report on global energy trends.
Natural gas emerged as the fuel of choice, posting the biggest gains and accounting for 45% of the rise in energy consumption. Solar and wind generation grew at double-digit pace, with solar alone increasing by 31%. Still, that was not fast enough to meet higher electricity demand around the world that also drove up coal use.
As a result, global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions rose by 1.7% to 33 Gigatonnes (Gt), with coal use in power generation alone surpassing 10 Gt and accounting for a third of total emissions. The majority of that was from coal-fired generation capacity in Asia, with a fleet of young power plants that are decades short of average lifetimes of around 50 years.
Improving efficiency will be key to curbing carbon emissions while supporting economic growth and energy security. The IEA report notes that energy efficiency improvement avoided over 270mn tonnes of CO2 in 2018, coal-to-gas switching avoided almost 100mn tonnes, and the increased use of renewables avoided 215mn tonnes, the vast majority of which is due to the transition to renewables in the power sector.