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

Guardian Web |

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 short-term 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.

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