Emissions

Providing reliable, affordable energy to support prosperity and enhance living standards is coupled with the need to do so in ways that reduce impacts on the environment, including the risks of climate change.

Report Oct. 5, 2022

Emissions
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Providing reliable, affordable energy to support prosperity and enhance living standards is coupled with the need to do so in ways that reduce impacts on the environment, including the risks of climate change.

Billions of people need reliable, affordable energy every day. At the same time, that energy use is contributing to CO2 emissions. Progress on society’s energy and climate objectives requires practical approaches and new technology solutions.

Solutions require the cooperation and collaboration of governments, academia, the business community, and consumers around the world.

Governments play an important role in developing and enacting policies that seek to address climate change risks in the most practical and cost-effective way.

Policies that promote innovation can expand the available options society has for providing access to energy while reducing impacts on the environment. Additionally, policies that harness the flexibility of free markets and competition can quickly scale the best solutions for each sector within a country.

Effective policy frameworks will be critical to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and meet society’s need for reliable and affordable energy.

Energy-related CO2 emissions peak

Global energy-related CO2 emissions - billion metric tons
Image Energy-related CO2 emissions peak

All sectors contributing to restrain CO2 emissions growth

Global energy-related CO2 emissions - billion metric tons
Image All sectors contributing to restrain CO2 emissions growth
  • Policy choices, consumer preferences and technology play a role in balancing energy supply and demand and the effects on emissions.
  • From 2000 to 2021, the economic expansion in Asia Pacific saw CO2 emissions substantially rise, only partially offset by reductions in Europe and North America.
  • Global annual energy-related CO2 emissions are likely to plateau around 2025 to 2030, at a level just below 2019 emissions, as countries try to reduce the emissions intensity of their economies.
  • A shift to less carbon-intensive sources of electricity (for example, renewables, nuclear and natural gas) will reduce the CO2 intensity of delivered electricity in 2050 by about 65% compared to 2021.
  • Efficiency gains and growing use of less carbon-intensive energy will help reduce industrial CO2 emissions relative to GDP by about 65% over the Outlook period.
  • Transportation represents about 30% of CO2 emissions today, and this share is likely to grow modestly to 2050, driven by expanding commercial transportation activity.
  • Global light-duty vehicle CO2 emissions are expected to peak in the mid-2020s before falling by more than 30% by 2050, as more efficient conventional vehicles and electric cars gain significant share. 

Energy efficiency critical to reducing emissions

Billion metric tons
Image Energy efficiency critical to reducing emissions
  • The primary driver of increasing global CO2 emissions between 2000 and 2021 was economic growth, as global GDP expanded about 75%.
  • Improving energy efficiency (energy use per unit of GDP) helped slow the growth in emissions, while global CO2 intensity of energy use remained fairly constant, with increased coal use in some non-OECD countries offsetting emission reductions in the OECD countries.
  • As the world’s economy more than doubles by 2050, technology will be essential to mitigate emissions. The Outlook projects a sustained improvement of CO2 intensity (more solar, wind, nuclear, coal to gas switch, carbon capture and storage) in addition to accelerated efficiency gains.
  • By 2050, efficiency and emissions intensity reduction are expected to contribute to a 65% decline in the carbon intensity of the global economy.

More change required to reach 2°C scenarios

Image More change required to reach 2C scenarios

Source: IPCC: AR6 Scenarios Database hosted by IIASA release 1.0 average of IPCC C3: Likely below 2°C” scenarios.” History based on 2015 to 2019 average, IHS Inflections scenario (2021), Global Status of CCS Report (2021), Wind and Solar deployment calculated from TWh based on fixed capacity factor of 35% and 17% respectively. Nuclear history for 2014 to 2018 average based on absolute capacity, and deployment based on projected demand growth and retirement profile from IHS Inflections scenario (2021).

  • The Energy Outlook projects energy-related CO2 emissions in 2050 almost 25% below 2021. The average of the IPCC Lower 2°C scenarios would require a reduction of about 70%.
  • More electrification and renewables can address only part of the problem. Additional lower-emission solutions are required under Lower 2°C scenarios. For all these lower-emission solutions, a clear acceleration in deployment is required. The largest rate of acceleration needed, up to 180 times the recently observed rate of deployment, is in carbon capture and storage.
  • The Outlook assumes continued progress in costs of technology and policy support in its projection of lower-emission solutions deployment. Monitoring the role of deployment of these solutions provides useful signposts on the pace of the transition.

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