Global energy-related CO2 emissions rose again in 2022, by 0.9%, to reach a new record, however lower than expected thanks to the rise of green energy and technologies, the International Energy Agency (IEA) announced on Thursday.

"The risk of unbridled emissions growth due to increased reliance on coal amid the energy crisis has not materialized as the rise of solar and wind power, electric cars, energy efficiency and other factors have curbed the rise in CO2," the IEA said Thursday in an analysis based on publicly available national data.

Emissions from energy (more than three-quarters of total greenhouse gases) remain "an unsustainable growth trajectory", fueling climate change, warns the IEA, which calls for stronger action.

Coal on the rise

In 2022, CO2 emissions from energy grew by 0.9% to a record of more than 36.8 billion tonnes, the report said. But according to the IEA, 550 million tonnes of CO2 have also been avoided by new low-carbon energy infrastructure. Last year, renewables accounted for 90% of the growth in electricity generation. In 2021, the annual increase in energy-related emissions had reached 6%, after an exceptionally weak Covid-19 year.

Last year, emissions were fuelled by an increased use of fossil fuels linked in particular to the resurgence of extreme weather episodes or the difficulties of operation of an unprecedented number of nuclear reactors.

Emissions from burning coal, which in Asia but also in Europe has often replaced gas that has become too expensive, increased by 1.6%. Oil-related emissions increased by 2.5%, but still below pre-Covid levels. Half of this growth comes from the recovery of air traffic, explains the IEA.

Energy companies 'must take their share of responsibility'

Geographically, Asia excluding China saw its emissions grow by 4.2%, driven by its economic growth. China, subject to Covid restrictions, remains at the same level of emissions. In the EU, emissions fell by 2.5%, thanks to a record deployment of renewables in the face of the return of coal. In the United States, they rose by 0.8%, with a sharp rise in energy demand due to extreme temperatures.

"The impacts of the energy crisis have not generated the massive growth in emissions we feared, thanks to the remarkable growth of renewables, electric vehicles, heat pumps and energy efficiency technologies. Without this, the growth in CO2 emissions would have been almost three times higher," commented IEA Director Fatih Birol.

"However, emissions from fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal) continue to grow, hampering efforts to meet global climate goals," he added, urging affected companies to act. "International and national fossil fuel companies are reaping record revenues and must take their share of responsibility, consistent with their public climate commitments. They need to review their strategies in order to actually reduce their emissions," he stressed.

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