Rise in global car­bon emis­sions a 'big step back­wards', says BP

The Guardian Australia - - Environment / Science - Adam Vaughan

The re­newed up­ward march of global car­bon emis­sions is wor­ry­ing and a big step back­wards in the fight against cli­mate change, ac­cord­ing to BP.

Emis­sions rose 1.6% in 2017 af­ter flatlin­ing for the pre­vi­ous three years, which the Bri­tish oil firm said was a re­minder the world was not on track to hit the goals of the Paris cli­mate deal.

Re­new­able power gen­er­a­tion grew by 17% last year, led by wind and fol­lowed by what BP called “stun­ning” growth in so­lar.

But strong eco­nomic growth led to above-average en­ergy de­mand, coal use bounced back in China and ef­fi­ciency gains slowed down, caus­ing emis­sions to jump, the com­pany’s an­nual sta­tis­ti­cal re­view of world en­ergy found.

Spencer Dale, the group’s chief econ­o­mist, said: “At first blush, from an en­ergy tran­si­tion per­spec­tive, these num­bers po­ten­tially look a bit dis­ap­point­ing.”

The emis­sions rise was “slightly wor­ry­ing” and a “pretty big back­ward step”, he said. “It sug­gests to me we are not on a path to the Paris cli­mate goals.”

How­ever, the econ­o­mist said there was an in­evitabil­ity to the back­slid­ing, be­cause 2014-16 had seen an ex­cep­tion­ally fast shift to greener power sources, led by short­term tar­gets in China.

“I am more wor­ried by the lack of progress in the power sec­tor over the past 20 years, than by the pickup in car­bon emis­sions last year,” he said.

Dale said the power sec­tor, in which BP has a lim­ited pres­ence, should do most of the heavy-lift­ing when it comes to fu­ture emis­sions cuts.

“It’s frus­trat­ing that so much en­ergy is de­voted to other bits of the [en­ergy] sec­tor where you get rel­a­tively lit­tle bang for your buck,” he said, in ref­er­ence to emis­sions sav­ings from switch­ing from oil-burn­ing cars to elec­tric ones.

BP said the world’s appetite for oil re­mained strong, as it grew 1.8% last year.

Pro­duc­tion cuts by Opec and Rus­sia had achieved their aim of bring­ing oil sup­ply and de­mand back into bal­ance, Dale said.

But he cau­tioned that oil prices – which re­cently hit $80 (£60) per bar­rel but have since fallen back to about $76 – were now so high they were be­gin­ning to curb oil de­mand.

“If we saw oil prices main­tain at these lev­els, that would eat into oil de­mand,” he said.

BP re­ported prof­its up 71% for the first three months of the year, off the back of the resur­gent oil price.

Pho­to­graph: Kevin Frayer/Getty Im­ages

A state-owned coal fired power plant in south­ern China. Coal use has bounced back in China, says BP’s an­nual sta­tis­ti­cal re­view of world en­ergy.

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