According to a London-based environmental think tank, Ember, the carbon emissions from the global electric power sector have touched a record high in the first half of 2021.
The analysis observed that the demand for electricity and the resulting emissions are now 5% higher than pre-pandemic times. Though worldwide lockdowns have led to a temporary drop in global greenhouse gas emissions, it has equally contributed to a surge in demand for electricity surpassing the growth of renewable energy, wrote Emma Newburger in CNBC.
The findings suggest that the “green recovery” that all the countries are aiming for is much far away than it should be. The transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources has to happen fast, writes Newburger.
The report asserted that wind and solar energy sources led to a record fall in coal utilisation in 2020 because of the pandemic as electricity consumption went low. However, the downward slope already was over by December 2020. The demand increased in the first half of the 21st century compared to December 2019 (India +5%, EU +2%, Japan +3%, South Korea +2%, Turkey +3%, US +2%).
Ember lead analyst Dave Jones said in a statement, “Progress is nowhere near fast enough. Despite coal’s record drop during the pandemic, it still fell short of what is needed.”
Jones asserted that the coal usage has to go down below 80% by the end of the decade to avoid dangerous global warming levels below 1.5 degrees celsius.
“We need to build enough clean electricity to replace coal simultaneously and electrify the global economy. World leaders have yet to wake up to the enormity of the challenge,” Jones added.
The Verge foregrounded that none of the 63 countries that Ember analysed saw a positive slope of “green recovery” in the first half of 2021. These countries are responsible for 87 per cent of global electricity production.
Ember’s criteria for measuring “green recovery” depends upon “power sector emissions and higher electricity demand, a sign that more electricity was being generated by clean energy sources like solar and wind.” Very few countries like the US had been able to shift to a better amount of cleaner power sectors compared to 2019.
Renewable energy has seen a growth rate in the early part of 2021. Wind and solar energy sources have contributed to providing for more than a tenth of the world’s electricity in the process, doubling their share from 2015 and surpassing nuclear power plants for the first time. But solar panels and wind turbines could still cover only 57 per cent of the rise in electricity demand, leaving coal — the dirtiest-burning fossil fuel — to provide for the rest, Justine Calma wrote in The Verge.
“Catapulting emissions in 2021 should send alarm bells across the world. We are not building back better; we are building back badly. The electricity transition is happening but with little urgency: emissions are going in the wrong direction,” Jones added.