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Expand chart

Newly released data show that global CO2 emissions had returned to pre-pandemic levels by the end of last year and surpassed them in some major economies.

Why it matters: The International Energy Agency warned that clean energy efforts are falling short.

  • It's important to clear the decks by noting that a tragic, economy-hobbling pandemic is not a climate policy and is a terrible reason for emissions cuts.
  • But the IEA and other multilateral agencies have called on nations to stitch support for clean energy into their recovery packages — and warn that's not happening nearly enough.

What they're saying: "The rebound in global carbon emissions toward the end of last year is a stark warning that not enough is being done to accelerate clean energy transitions worldwide," IEA executive director Fatih Birol said in a statement.

  • "If governments don’t move quickly with the right energy policies, this could put at risk the world’s historic opportunity to make 2019 the definitive peak in global emissions," he said.

The big picture: IEA estimates that global energy-related CO2 emissions fell by 6% last year, the steepest drop since World War II.

  • IEA's chart above shows monthly emissions levels compared to 2019.
  • In December, emissions had crept 2% above the prior year's levels as activity rebounded.
  • China was the only country to see an increase on a full-year basis in 2020, albeit a small one.

How it works: Separate new analysis in Carbon Brief explores why emissions in China, the world's largest emitter, actually rose in 2020 despite the big restrictions early in the year.

  • "China’s return to economic growth after its first Covid-19 lockdown has relied on stimulating polluting sectors, such as construction and heavy industry," writes Lauri Myllyvirta of the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.

Threat level: Substantial global cuts are needed every year for decades to get the world on to track to meet Paris Agreement's goals for limiting long-term temperature rise.

  • That's especially true for deal's most ambitious, long-shot target of preventing more than a 1.5°C increase above preindustrial levels.
  • The UN estimates that global greenhouse gas emissions would need to decline by roughly 45% by 2030 compared to 2010 levels — that is, about a pandemic's worth of decline every year.

Go deeper

Column / Harder Line

New England power fight foreshadows divisive clean energy future

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It wasn’t his first choice, but Sean Mahoney isn’t fighting a 150-mile proposed power line sending Canadian hydropower to New England as part of the region’s climate-change goals.

Why he matters: Mahoney, a senior expert at the nonprofit Conservation Law Foundation who lives in Maine, is seeking to compromise in a bitter battle over the proposal. Expect more fights like this as President Biden and other political leaders pursue zero-carbon economies over the next 30 years.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Mar 1, 2021 - Economy & Business

Exxon adds activist investor to board in latest move to revamp oil giant

Expand chart
Data: Yahoo Finance; Chart: Axios Visuals

ExxonMobil Monday morning announced two additions to its board as the oil giant faces pressure to boost financial performance and do more on climate.

Driving the news: Activist investor Jeffrey Ubben and Michael Angelakis, CEO of the investment company Atairos and a former senior Comcast Corp. official, are the board's two newest members.

Updated 6 hours ago - World

Biden in call with Netanyahu raises concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza

Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images

President Biden spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Saturday and raised concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza and the bombing of the building that housed AP and other media offices, according to Israeli officials.

The big picture: At least 140 Palestinians, including dozens of children, have been killed in Gaza since fighting between Israel and Hamas began Monday, according to Palestinian health officials. Nine people, including two children, have been killed by Hamas rockets in Israel.