No sign of decrease in global CO2 emissions

11 Nov 2022

New report by Global Carbon Project predicts global fossil CO2 emissions of 36.6 billion tonnes by the end of 2022

Global fossil CO2 emissions will reach 36.6 billion tonnes in 2022, slightly above pre-COVID-19 levels. Adding land-use emissions of 3.9 billion tonnes, we get overall emissions of 40.6 billion tonnes, just below the highest annual total ever (40.9 billion tonnes in 2019). This was revealed in the latest report by the Global Carbon Project in which LMU geographers Julia Pongratz and Clemens Schwingshackl play a key role.

Continuing high emissions are at odds with the decrease that would be needed to reach the Paris climate targets. To limit global warming to 1.5°C with a likelihood of 50%, future emissions must not exceed 380 billion tonnes of CO2. Extrapolating from the emissions values for 2022, we would reach this total in just nine years.

© picture alliance / Patrick Pleul/dpa-Zentralbild/ZB | Patrick Pleul

Climate policies and technological change not yet having a sufficient effect

Ein Flugzeug, welches nachts abfliegt.

The largest contributor to the predicted increase in fossil CO2 emissions in 2022 is higher oil consumption due to the rebound of international aviation. | © Benno Grieshaber Photoproduktion

The report shows that the long-term rate of increasing fossil emissions has slowed. 24 countries with growing economies have even managed to reduce their fossil CO2 emissions. However, this will not be enough to reach the climate targets of the Paris Agreement. To achieve zero CO2 emissions by 2050, overall anthropogenic CO2 emissions would have to fall by 1.4 billion tonnes per year on average, comparable to the observed fall in 2020 emissions resulting from COVID-19 lockdowns. This highlights the scale of the action required.

The largest contributor to the predicted increase in fossil CO2 emissions in 2022 is higher oil consumption due to the rebound of international aviation. Regional differences are conspicuous. Comparing 2022 emissions with 2021 levels, for example, we see a fall of around 0.9% in China and of 0.8% in the European Union. In other regions, by contrast, emissions will increase: in the United States by 1.5%, in India by 6%, and in the rest of the world by 1.7%.

This reflects current geopolitical crises and the pandemic situation. The fall in Chinese emissions can be attributed to the effects of coronavirus lockdowns. In the EU, by contrast, the decrease is driven largely by the reduced supply of natural gas, with emissions from this source down approximately 10% in 2022 compared to the previous year. However, these savings were partially canceled out by increases in coal and oil emissions (6.7% and 0.9% respectively).

The 2022 Global Carbon Budget report will be published as global heads of state and government meet to discuss the climate crisis at COP27 in Egypt. “We’re seeing some positive developments, but nowhere near the far-reaching measures that would now have to be introduced to keep global warming substantially below two degrees. Fossil emissions are rising instead of falling. Land-use emissions remain high – despite the pledge at last year’s climate conference to end global deforestation by 2030. We have to sharpen our ambitions and implement them with much greater urgency if the targets of the Paris Agreement are to become reality,” says Julia Pongratz, Professor of Physical Geography and Land-Use Systems at LMU and part of the core team that compiled the report.

Tropical deforestation causing high emissions

In addition to fossil emissions, human land use also has a major influence on the global carbon budget. It is estimated, for example, that emissions from land use will amount to 3.9 billion tonnes of CO2 this year. “Deforestation makes up the lion’s share of this total, with emissions of around 6.7 billion tonnes of CO2 per year over the past decade – there is great potential for reducing emissions here. Half of these emissions, 3.5 billion tonnes of CO2, are counterbalanced by processes like forest regrowth and afforestation. These sinks should be maintained and further expanded,” says LMU staff member Clemens Schwingshackl, who also contributed to the report.

Tropical regions are the main drivers of land-use emissions – Indonesia, Brazil, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo were collectively responsible for 58% of global land-use emissions over the past decade.

The Global Carbon Budget report also records the uptake of anthropogenic CO2 emissions in natural carbon sinks. For 2022, the scientists estimated that ocean sinks absorbed 10.5 billion tonnes of CO2, while land sinks absorbed 12.4 billion tonnes. The remaining emissions – almost half of the total – have further increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations to 51% above pre-industrial levels.

A team of more than 100 scientists produces the Global Carbon Budget report based on data from global measurement networks, satellite data, statistical surveys, and model calculations. The German, Austrian, and Swiss project contingent includes scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute (Bremerhaven), Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (Munich), the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology (Hamburg), the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry (Jena), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research (Kiel), the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research (Warnemünde), the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (Laxenburg), ETH Zurich, and the University of Bern. The Global Carbon Budget 2022 is the 17th edition of the annually published report, which is reviewed by independent experts.

Friedlingstein et al. (2022) Global Carbon Budget 2022. Earth System Science Data

What are you looking for?