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Sobering forecast: Pandemic waning, emissions of CO2 to increase again

The Global Carbon Project, an international research group that releases the latest trends on carbon dioxide emissions during the climate meeting every year, said emissions were expected to rise by 4.9 per cent compared to last year.

Written by Amitabh Sinha | Glasgow |
Updated: November 4, 2021 7:13:53 am
climate change, climate action, net zero, COP26India’s renewable energy targets have steadily become more ambitious, from the 175 GW by 2022 declared at Paris, to 450 GW by 2030 at the UN Climate Summit, and now 500 GW by 2030, announced at COP26.

After two days of headline-grabbing statements from world leaders at Glasgow came the grim reminder: the pandemic-induced decrease in carbon dioxide emissions was over, and that CO2 emissions this year were expected to return to pre-pandemic levels.

The Global Carbon Project, an international research group that releases the latest trends on carbon dioxide emissions during the climate meeting every year, said emissions were expected to rise by 4.9 per cent compared to last year.

The global disruption in economic activity due to the Covid-19 pandemic had resulted in an extraordinary decrease in carbon dioxide emissions last year. Emissions fell by 5.4 per cent in 2020 compared to the previous year — from 36.7 billion tonnes to 34.8 billion tonnes, an absolute reduction of 1.9 billion tonnes.

This year, the world is expected to emit 36.4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide — still lower than the 2019 level, but only marginally.

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In India, the increase from last year is expected to be much bigger: 12.6 per cent. That means India’s CO2 emissions this year will be more than in 2019 by about 4.4 per cent. This is in line with pre-pandemic trends for India.

“For major emitters, the 2021 emissions appear to return to pre-Covid trends of decreasing CO2 emissions for the United States and European Union and increasing CO2 emissions for India. For China, the response to the Covid-19 pandemic has sparked further growth in CO2 emissions, pushed by power and industry sectors,” the report said.

The report, which tracks only carbon dioxide emissions and not the emissions of all greenhouse gases, said global CO2 emissions could continue to rise next year as well if road transport and aviation activities return to pre-Covid levels.


If the current trends continue, the accumulated carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere commensurate to 1.5-degree-Celsius rise in global temperatures from pre-industrial times would be reached in just 11 years from now — and a 2-degree-Celsius rise would be only 32 years away, the report said.

It said that if the world was to reach a net-zero level by 2050, as is being considered, a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions similar to what was seen during the Covid year would be required every year on average.

Meanwhile, as world leaders departed from Glasgow, country negotiators got down to work on resolving remaining issues relating to rules and procedures of the Paris Agreement that need to be finalized here.


A major unresolved issue relates to the rules that would govern the new carbon markets under the Paris Agreement. There are serious differences between developed and developing countries on this issue, mainly relating to the transition of older carbon credits earned under the Kyoto Protocol regime.

The Kyoto Protocol expired last year, and developing countries, led by Brazil, have been demanding that the credits that were earned earlier must remain valid in the new regime as well.

The first two days of the ongoing meeting in Glasgow have probably been the most productive opening of any climate meeting ever.

India announced a new set of enhanced climate targets, including a pledge to go net-zero by 2070, something that was being demanded by the developed countries.

The following day, a large number of countries agreed to a first-of-its-kind pledge to cut methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030, and also to arrest and reverse deforestation by that same year.

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First published on: 04-11-2021 at 04:15:00 am
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