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Growth and ecology: which one are we going to sacrifice?

CO² emissions in 2021. | Posted on 2021-04-21 12:05

Recently, one of our debates was about whether growth and ecology could go hand in hand. It seems that the news gives us the beginning of an answer. Indeed, the CO² emissions generated by energy production fell in 2020 but, unfortunately, the respite will be short-lived. Why ? The resumption of growth.

The drop in global demand linked to the Covid 19 pandemic has allowed CO² emissions to drop significantly by 5.8% in 2020. However, the backlash could be violent if we judge at the time. warning issued by the International Energy Agency (IEA). Fatih Birol, executive director of the agency, said “This is a terrible warning. The economic recovery after the Covid-19 crisis is currently anything but sustainable for our climate ”. And to be alarmed: "This shows that the global economic recovery will be particularly carbon-intensive and this endangers the global targets for reducing emissions."

The IEA forecasts a record 4.5% increase in CO² emissions for 2021, mainly due to the sharp increase in energy requirements. Fossil fuels are responsible but, once again, it is coal that is being singled out. On its own, it will represent the vast majority of the increase, exceeding the level of 2019 and almost that of 2014.

All in all, energy-related CO² emissions will have returned to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2021.

Unsurprisingly, it is Asia and in particular China that come first. Remember that this country has one of the largest coal-fired power plants in the world and due to the strong rebound in the Chinese economy, they are running at full speed again to provide the necessary electricity. Another fossil fuel, natural gas comes in second position, well placed in Asia but also in the Middle East and Russia. Its use will be greater than 2019, predicts the Agency.

Asia is, of course, not the only continent to have massive recourse to coal. It is also found in Europe and the United States. However, the IEA indicates that its level "should remain well below pre-crisis levels" .

As for oil, even on the rise, it will not return to pre-health crisis records because of many parts of the economy that have still not recovered, such as the transport sector.

However, there is a positive note to be taken from this disturbing news. This is the significant part occupied by renewable energies in the production of electricity. Solar and wind power are progressing strongly with an increase of 18% and 17% respectively compared to 2020. And it is again China which stands out by representing half of production. This country is very far ahead in this matter, as Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State conceded yesterday: "China is the largest producer and exporter of solar panels and wind turbines" . According to the IAE: “The increase in electricity consumption in 2021 is almost five times greater than the decrease in 2020. And renewable electricity production is expected to grow by 8%, to provide some 30% of global electricity (including hydropower), compared to less than 27% in 2019. ”

As the climate summit season begins, a lot of pressure rests on the shoulders of our decision-makers, commensurate with the urgency of the situation. Fatih Birol is here to remind you firmly: “it is a critical moment to commit to clear and immediate actions before the COP26 in Glasgow. […] Otherwise, it is likely that we will face an even worse situation in 2022 ”.

But let's end this article as it started. We must now be able to say that growth and ecology, in the current state of our production methods, do not really go hand in hand. The next question that comes to us then is: which of the two are we going to sacrifice?

Posted on 2021-04-21 12:05

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