Environment

Covid recovery will drive global emissions to record heights, warns IEA

The International Energy Agency says that just 2 percent of pandemic recovery finance is being directed at clean energy.
The International Energy Agency says that just 2 percent of pandemic recovery finance is being directed at clean energy. Ina FASSBENDER AFP/File

The International Energy Agency has warned that Covid recovery plans are set to produce record carbon emissions by 2023.

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A report pushed Tuesday by the energy watchdog said that just 2 percent of pandemic recovery finance was being directed at clean energy.

"Since the Covid-19 crisis erupted, many governments may have talked about the importance of building back better for a cleaner future, but many of them are yet to put their money where their mouth is," said IEA executive director Fatih Birol.

Of the 14 trillion euros allocated by countries throughout the health crisis – most of it emergency aid for businesses and workers – just 323 billion was being spent on clean energy projects, the IEA's Sustainable Recovery Tracker found.

That represents “just a small sliver" of the $1 trillion the body said was needed for the world to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

'No clear peak in sight'

The IEA tracker, which analysed more than 800 policy measures across more than 50 countries, found that emissions would reach an all-time high within two years under existing spending plans. They would then continue to rise with “no clear peak in sight”.

Scientists say that in order to ward off the worst effects of climate change, warming must be kept to “well below” 1.5 degrees Celsius, as per the Paris Agreement.

In order to achieve this, emissions must fall by more than 7 percent every year until 2030. However IEA figures warn that carbon pollution would be 3.5 billion tonnes higher than levels consistent with the 1.5 degree target.

Recent devastating floods in western Europe and record heatwaves in North America have been held up as evidence that the impacts of climate change are already hitting even the most developed economies.

Help for poorer nations

With the vast majority of emissions growth forecast to come from the developing world, Birol said reaching global climate targets would mean helping poorer nations transition to cleaner energy.

 “Advanced economies have both an economic rationale and a moral obligation to supply climate finance to the emerging world,” he said.

Last week, more than 100 developing nations called on rich economies to fulfil their promises to ensure at least $100bn a year in climate finance was provided to countries on the frontlines of climate change.

The decade-old pledge has been a sticking point ahead of the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow in November.

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