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Global carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal, oil and gas have reached a new record and are set to rise at a faster rate in 2023 than the 10-year average, according to new research that highlights how the goals of the Paris agreement to limit global warming are increasingly in jeopardy.
The emissions are estimated to grow 1.1 per cent this year, with an uncertainty range of up to 2.1 per cent, research from the Center for International Climate Research (Cicero) showed. This compares with an average growth rate of 0.5 per cent a year over the past decade.
Scientists say emissions must fall by almost half in the next seven years to have any hope of meeting the Paris accord goal of limiting the global temperature rise to ideally no more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
Instead, the research estimates the world has just seven years of carbon budget — or the amount of carbon dioxide that can be put into the atmosphere — before surpassing the 1.5C threshold.
The collaboration behind the research, known as the Global Carbon Project, estimates there is a 50 per cent chance global warming will exceed 1.5C consistently in about seven years, although the researchers warned there were big uncertainties because of warming from non-CO₂ gases such as methane and nitrous oxide, which are also rising.
The research comes as almost 200 countries meet at the UN COP28 climate summit in Dubai, with negotiators at loggerheads over the future role of fossil fuels. The burning of fossil fuels is by far the largest contributor to global warming.
The Cicero research has found that carbon emissions are 6 per cent higher than in 2015, the year of the Paris accord.
“It now looks inevitable we will overshoot the 1.5C target of the Paris agreement, and leaders meeting at COP28 will have to agree rapid cuts in fossil fuel emissions even to keep the 2C target alive,” said Pierre Friedlingstein, of Exeter university’s Global Systems Institute, who led the study.
While almost 120 countries have signed up to a target to triple renewable energy capacity and double energy efficiency at COP28, the EU and others are pushing for a global agreement to phase out fossil fuels.
Cicero director Kristin Halvorsen said: “The world must move away from investments in new coal, oil and gas supply, at the same time as accelerating investments in renewable energy.”
Carbon emissions in the US had fallen an estimated 3 per cent in 2023 and by 7.4 per cent in the EU, but the report said fossil fuel emissions were projected to grow 4 per cent in China and 8.2 per cent in India.
Emissions from oil are forecast to grow 1.5 per cent, but remain below the levels before the Covid-19 pandemic.
The pace of growth in emissions from gas, meanwhile, had slowed since Russia’s war in Ukraine. Emissions from gas are expected to rise 0.5 per cent, compared with an average of 2 per cent a year for the past 10 years.
Shipping and aviation sector emissions are expected to increase by almost 12 per cent in 2023.
A separate study from the World Meteorological Organization on Tuesday also warned that the rate of climate change surged “alarmingly” between 2011 and 2020, which was the warmest decade on record.
The WMO said glaciers globally had thinned by about one metre per year — an unprecedented loss that could have a long-term impact on water supplies. At the same time, the Antarctic continental ice sheet lost nearly 75 per cent more ice between 2011 and 2020 than it did from 2001 to 2010.
“We are losing the race to save our melting glaciers and ice sheets,” said WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas. “This is unequivocally driven by greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.”
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