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Expand chart
Data: IEA Global Energy Review 2021; Chart: Axios Visuals

Global energy-related carbon emissions will surge this year as coal, oil and natural gas consumption return from the pandemic that caused an unprecedented emissions decline, the International Energy Agency estimated Tuesday.

Why it matters: The projected rise of nearly 5% would be the largest since the "carbon intensive" recovery from the financial crisis over a decade ago, IEA said, putting emissions just below their 2019 peak.

Threat level: Tragic pandemics are a terrible reason for emissions cuts and they're not a climate policy.

  • But IEA head Fatih Birol, in a statement, called the carbon bounce-back a troubling sign.
  • "This is a dire warning that the economic recovery from the COVID crisis is currently anything but sustainable for our climate," he said in a statement.
  • "Unless governments around the world move rapidly to start cutting emissions, we are likely to face an even worse situation in 2022," Birol said.

The big picture: IEA sees overall global energy demand rising 4.6% this year, pushing it back above 2019 levels, but varies by region.

Most of the increase comes in emerging markets and developing countries, while energy use in "advanced economies" will be 3% below pre-COVID levels, they estimate.

Yes, but: Knowing the future is hard.

"The pace of global vaccine rollouts, the possible emergence of new variants of the Covid-19 virus, and the size and effectiveness of economic stimulus measures all represent major uncertainties," IEA notes.

Expand chart
Data: IEA Global Energy Review 2021; Chart: Axios Visuals

The chart above shows IEA's projections for changes in CO2 emissions from coal, oil and natural gas.

Driving the news: They see global oil demand rising over 6% this year, but staying below 2019 levels.

  • But global coal demand is expected to be higher than 2019 and approach its 2014 worldwide peak, IEA projects.
  • IEA sees China, the world's largest coal consumer, accounting for 55% of the 2021 increase in global coal demand.
  • They see China's coal demand, which rose slightly last year, at a record high in 2021.

Go deeper: Covid-19 Slashed Carbon Emissions. Now They’re Climbing Again. (Wall Street Journal)

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Apr 19, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Emissions modeling underscores need for sweeping energy transformations

Expand chart
Data: IEA; Chart: Axios Visuals

International Energy Agency modeling underscores the kind of sweeping energy transformations needed in the relatively near future to meet the Paris Agreement's temperature goals.

The big picture: The chart above via IEA's World Energy Outlook last October shows changes in demand for various fuel sources in three IEA scenarios.

World must sharply cut emissions by 2030 to meet Paris climate goals

Expand chart
Data: SSP/Global Carbon Project; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

The odds of calamitous climate events, from collapsing polar ice sheets and the ensuing sharp rises in sea levels to deadly heat waves, increases dramatically if the world exceeds the Paris Climate Agreement's temperature targets.

Why it matters: In order to have a decent chance of meeting the agreement's most ambitious temperature target — holding warming to 1.5 °C above preindustrial levels — greenhouse gas emissions need to be sharply reduced before 2030.

Cities up the ante on their climate pledges

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Cities and states continue to push forward on their climate goals, raising their level of ambition as the White House prepares to host a global climate summit this week.

Why it matters: Cities account for a significant share of emissions and worked to reduce them despite the Trump-era federal pullback. City leaders also must prepare for climate impacts such as the sea-level rise and more intense heat waves.