Carbon emissions are set to hit an all-time high by 2023 as just 2 percent of COVID-19 pandemic recovery finance is being spent on clean energy, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said yesterday.
Nations have allocated more than US$16 trillion in fiscal support throughout the pandemic, mostly in the form of emergency financial help for workers and businesses.
The IEA’s Sustainable Recovery Tracker found that just US$380 billion of this had been provided for clean energy projects.
If all spending plans were to be realized, global carbon emissions would hit record levels in 2023 and continue to rise in the following years, the agency said.
Overall carbon pollution would be 3.5 billion tonnes higher than a scenario in which economies are compliant with the 1.5°C temperature goal of the Paris climate deal, it said.
“Since the COVID-19 crisis erupted, many governments may have talked about the importance of building back better for a cleaner future, but many of them are yet to put their money where their mouth is,” IEA executive director Fatih Birol said.
The UN says that to keep the 1.5°C temperature goal in play, emissions must on average fall more than 7 percent annually through 2030. Although pandemic lockdowns and travel restrictions saw carbon pollution fall briefly last year, concentrations of planet-warming gases in Earth’s atmosphere are still on the rise.
With record-breaking heat waves battering North America and parts of northern Europe submerged in unprecedented flooding, the impacts of climate change are hitting even developed economies harder than ever before.
The IEA said investment measures announced by G20 nations were expected to meet 60 percent of the spending required to keep the Paris temperature goals within reach. Among developing nations, that fell to just 20 percent, as nations hard hit by the pandemic prioritized emergency health and welfare spending over sustainable investment.
The IEA last month released its clean investment report, which found that annual green investment must increase more than sevenfold — from less than US$150 billion last year to more than US$1 trillion by 2030 — if the world is to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
More than 100 developing nations last week called on rich economies to make good on a decade-old promise to provide US$100 billion annually to nations on the front line of climate change.
Writing ahead of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, in November, the nations also urged historic polluters to rapidly decarbonize their economies while helping others to do likewise.
Overall, the IEA said that all nations were missing the opportunity to divert private and public funds toward green projects that would provide triple climate, health and economic benefits.
“Not only is clean energy investment still far from what’s needed to put the world on a path to reaching net-zero emissions by mid-century, it’s not even enough to prevent global emissions from surging to a new record,” Birol said. “Governments need to increase spending and policy action rapidly to meet the commitments they made in Paris in 2015 — including the vital provision of financing by advanced economies to the developing world.”
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