By Vishal Gulati
With emissions projected to increase in India by six per cent, global carbon emissions in 2022 remain at record levels -- with no sign of the decrease that is urgently needed to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to the Global Carbon Project science team.
If current emissions levels persist, there is now a 50 per cent chance that global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius will be exceeded in nine years.
The new report projects total global CO2 emissions of 40.6 billion tonnes (GtCO2) in 2022. This is fuelled by fossil CO2 emissions which are projected to rise one per cent compared to 2021, reaching 36.6 GtCO2 -- slightly above the 2019 pre-Covid 19 levels. Emissions from land-use change (such as deforestation) are projected to be 3.9 GtCO2 in 2022.
Projected emissions from coal and oil are above their 2021 levels, with oil being the largest contributor to total emissions growth. The growth in oil emissions can be largely explained by the delayed rebound of international aviation following the pandemic restrictions.
The 2022 picture among major emitters is mixed: Emissions are projected to fall in China (0.9 per cent) and the EU (0.8 per cent), and increase in the US (1.5 per cent) and India (six per cent), with a 1.7 per cent rise in the rest of the world combined.
The remaining carbon budget for a 50 per cent likelihood to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees has reduced to 380 GtCO2 (exceeded after nine years if emissions remain at 2022 levels) and 1230 GtCO2 to limit to two degrees (30 years at 2022 emissions levels).
To reach zero CO2 emissions by 2050 would now require a decrease of about 1.4 GtCO2 each year, comparable to the observed fall in 2020 emissions resulting from Covid-19 lockdowns, highlighting the scale of the action required.
Land and oceans, which absorb and store carbon, continue to take up around half of the CO2 emissions. However, climate change reduced the uptake of CO2 by the ocean and land sinks by an estimated four per cent and 17 per cent, respectively, over the 2012-2021 decade.
This year's carbon budget shows that the long-term rate of increasing fossil emissions has slowed. The average rise peaked at plus three per cent per year during the 2000s, while growth in the last decade has been about plus 0.5 per cent per year.
The research team, including the University of Exeter, the University of East Anglia (UEA), CICERO and Ludwig-Maximilian-University Munich, welcomed this slow-down, but said it was "far from the emissions decrease we need".
The findings come as world leaders met at COP27 in Egypt to discuss the climate crisis.
In India (eight per cent of global emissions), emissions in 2022 are projected to increase by 6 per cent (range 3.9 to 8 per cent), driven mostly by a five per cent increase in coal emissions.
Emissions from oil are up sharply, with a projected rise of 10 per cent, but this returns them to about the 2019 levels. Emissions from natural gas are projected to decline four per cent but contribute little to the total change as gas is a small part of the energy mix in India.
Responding to the annual scientific assessment of the global carbon cycle, World Resources Institute (India) Climate Program Director Ulka Kelkar told IANS, "At the current rate, in less than 10 years the world could blow its chances of staying within 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming."
"More than half of this damage was done before 1990 when economies like India started to develop. Even now, India's emissions are rising from a low base compared to other large economies, and the average Indians' emissions are a fraction of the European or American.
"Going forward, India is fortunate to have abundant renewable energy to fuel its growth, but needs timely finance to build the infrastructure to store and transmit this energy. Adoption of clean technologies by India will not just cut carbon but can also prevent millions of premature deaths due to air pollution."
Pallavi Das, Programme Associate, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), said while everyone refers to the historical responsibility argument which is critical, less attention is paid to future responsibility.
The net-zero pledges of China, EU and the US will collectively exhaust 89 per cent of the remaining carbon budget of 500 GtCO2 by 2050. A mere 10 year advancement of the net zero years by these countries can release 18 per cent of global carbon space for the developing world, making the transition more equitable.
Otherwise, said Das, the current net zero years of the developed countries will only perpetuate inequity in the climate debate. (SJ/IANS)