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New analysis shows that global emissions have almost returned to pre-pandemic levels, after a remarkable drop in 2020
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New analysis shows that global emissions have almost returned to pre-pandemic levels, after a remarkable drop in 2020


After COVID-19 restrictions, global carbon dioxide emission have recovered and will likely reach pre-pandemic levels this fiscal year. our analysisToday’s release has been made.

This alarming finding comes as world leaders gather at the COP26 climate talks, Glasgow, in a desperate bid to stop dangerous global warming. The analysis was done by the Global Carbon ProjectA consortium of scientists from all over the globe who produce, collect, and analyse global greenhouse gas information.

The fast recovery in CO₂ emissions, following last year’s sharp dropIt should not be surprising. The world’s strong economic rebound has created a surge in demand for energy, and the global energy system is still heavily dependent on fossil fuels.

Most concerning is the long-term upward trends of CO₂ emissions from oil and gas, and this year’s growth in coal emissions, which together are far from trending towards net-zero by 2050.

people seated around U-shaped table
These troubling findings were made as world leaders meet at the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow.
Evan Vucci/AP

The global emissions picture

Global CO₂ emissions from fossil fuels dropped by 5.4% in 2020, compared to the previous year. They are expected to rise by 4.9% this year to 36.4 billion tonnes, which is about 4.9% more than their 2020 levels. They are now almost back at 2019 levels.

We can expect another 2.9 billion tonnes of CO₂ emissions this year from the net effect of everything we do to the land, including deforestation, degradation and re-vegetation.

This brings us to a total of 39.4 billion tonnes of CO₂ to be emitted by the end of this year.

As the global economy expands, the rapid growth in emissions is matched by the large increase in energy consumption. US$17.2 trillionIn economic stimulus packages around world.

CO₂ emissions from all fossil fuel types (coal, oil and natural gas) grew this year, with emissions from coal and natural gas set to grow more in 2021 than they fell in 2020.

Global coal use was declining before the pandemic in early 2020, but they have risen this year. Global gas use has returned to the rising trend that was seen before the pandemic.

CO₂ emissions from global oil use remain well below pre-pandemic levels but are expected to increase in coming years as road transport and aviation recover from COVID-related restrictions.

Global fossil CO₂ emissions.
Source: Global Carbon Project,

Nation leaders in the emission charge

China has seen its emissions recover faster than any other country. It’s among the few countries where emissions grew in 2020 (by 1.4%) followed by a projected growth of 4% this year.

Taking these two years together, CO₂ emissions from China in 2021 are projected to be 5.5% above 2019 levels, reaching 11.1 billion tonnes. China accounted for 31% global emissions in 2020.

China’s coal emissions are expected to rise by 2.4% this coming year. If realised, it would match what was thought to be China’s peak coal emissions in 2013.

India’s CO₂ emissions are projected to grow even faster than China’s this year at 12.6%, after a 7.3% fall last year. Emissions this year are set to be 4.4% above 2019 levels – reaching 2.7 billion tonnes. In 2020, India accounted for 7% global emissions.

The US and European Union are both expected to see their emissions rise by 7.6% this coming year. It would result in emissions that are respectively 3.7% and 4.2% lower than 2019 levels.

The US and EU accounted respectively for 14% & 7% of global emissions in 2020.

The rest of the world’s emissions (including international transport, including aviation) will rise by 2.9% this year but remain 4.2% below the 2019 levels. These countries together account for 59% of global emissions.

Regional fossil CO₂ emissions 2019-2021.
Source: Global Carbon Project,

The carbon budget

The relatively large changes in annual emissions over the past two years have had no discernible effect in the speed at which CO₂ accumulates in the atmosphere.

CO₂ concentrations, and associated global warming, are driven by the accumulation of greenhouse gases – particularly CO₂ – since the beginning of the industrial era. In recent decades, this accumulation has been increasing.

To stop further global warming, global CO₂ emissions must stop or reach net-zero – the latter meaning that any remaining CO₂ emissions would have to be compensated for by removing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere.

Carbon budgets are a useful way of measuring how much CO₂ can be emitted for a given level of global warming. We have updated the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s carbon budget (in our latest analysis).IPCC) in August this year.

From the beginning of 2022, the world can emit an additional 420 billion tonnes of CO₂ to limit global warming to 1.5℃, or 11 years of emissions at this year’s rate.

To limit global warming to 2℃, the world can emit an additional 1,270 billion tonnes of CO₂ – or 32 years of emissions at the current rate.

The remaining carbon budgets to limit warming to 1.5℃ and 2℃. Updated from IPCC 2020.
Source: Global Carbon Project,

These budgets serve as the compass to net zero emissions. This is consistent with the pledge many countries to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, CO₂ emissions need to decline by 1.4 billion tonnes each year, on average.

This is comparable to the 2020 drop of 1.9 billion tonnes. This highlights the enormity of the task ahead and the need to increase short and long-term commitments for global emissions reduction.

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