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IEA: Rebound in global economic growth to drive a surge in CO2 emissions in 2021

20 April 2021

The International Energy Agancy (IEA) released its Global Energy Review 2021 report, which assesses the direction global energy demand and carbon dioxide emissions are taking in 2021. According to the IEA assessment, Covid-19 vaccine rollouts and government’s stimulus packages are boosting the outlook for economic growth. Global GDP is expected to increase by 6% in 2021 relative to 2020—more than compensating for the 3.5% drop—and by more than 2% relative to 2019. This level of economic activity will require a steep increase in energy demand, causing a sharp growth in CO2 emissions.

Global energy demand is predicted to increase by 4.6% in 2021, more than offsetting the 4% contraction in 2020 and pushing demand 0.5% above 2019 levels. Almost 70% of the projected increase in global energy demand is in emerging markets and developing economies. The demand for oil, natural gas, and coal is to increase in 2021. The growth in coal consumption is driven by strong electricity demand that is heading for its fastest growth in more than 10 years.

Global energy-related CO2 emissions are heading for their second-largest annual increase ever. As coal demand alone is projected to increase by 60% more than all renewables combined, CO2 emissions are to rise by almost 5%, or 1,500 Mt—the biggest annual rise in emissions since 2010, during the recovery from the Global Financial Crisis. This expected increase would reverse 80% of the drop in 2020, with emissions ending up just 1.2% (400 Mt) below 2019 emissions.

The key findings of the report include:

Source: IEA