Latest BP figures show ‘worrying’ rises in demand and emissions

Oil giant BP has warned of a widening gulf between demands for action on climate change and the sluggish pace of progress on emissions reductions in its 68th annual Statistical Review of World Energy.

The report shows there was a rapid rise in both energy demand and carbon emissions last year – with global energy consumption growing by 2.9% and emissions growing by 2%. The latter figure, equivalent to 0.6 gigatonnes of CO2, represents the largest year-on-year rise since 2011.

When broken down by fuel, growth in energy consumption was largely driven by natural gas, which contributed nearly 45% of the increase. Meanwhile, consumption of oil and coal increased by 1.5% and 1.4% respectively. Renewables grew by 14.5%, nearing their record-breaking increase in 2017, but renewables still amounted to just one third of the increase in total power generation.

China, the US and India accounted for around two thirds of total rise in energy consumption. According to BP, the most striking growth was seen in the US, where energy consumption increased by a massive 3.5%, the fastest growth seen for 30 years.

Much of the global surge in energy demand can be traced back to extreme weather events, as consumers across the world’s major population centres upped their usage of heating and cooling in response to an unusual number of hot and cold days.

In analysis published alongside the report, BP’s Group Chief Economist, Spencer Dale, offered two interpretations of the data. If the increased number of heating and cooling days were just random variation, the oil major would ‘expect weather effects in the future to revert to more normal levels.’

On the other hand, Dale wrote, if there is a link between growing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and the weather patterns observed last year, there is the possibility of a worrying vicious cycle. Under this scenario, increased concentrations of greenhouse gases lead to more extreme weather events, which in turn trigger stronger growth in energy consumption and emissions as households and businesses seek to heat and cool their buildings.

‘Even if these weather effects are short lived, such that the growth in energy demand and carbon emissions slow over the next few years, the recent trends still feel very distant from the types of transition paths consistent with meeting the Paris climate goals,’ Dale warned.

BP has recently provoked the ire of environmentalists, with campaigners from Greenpeace, pursuing a drilling rig as it is towed from Scotland’s Cromarty Firth to a North Sea oil field to drill for oil. Fourteen people have been arrested since the activists first boarded the 27,000-tonne rig in mid-June.

‘We are determined to stop BP drilling new oil wells in the North Sea,’ said Greenpeace activist Sarah North. ‘We’re calling on them to act with leadership by transitioning to 100% renewable energy in response to this escalating global crisis.’ 

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