Carbon Emissions Back on the Rise—Along With Cleaner Energy

Climate-friendly government policies and recent investments by energy companies are accelerating the growth of renewables.

1 minute read

March 9, 2021, 9:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Mt. Hood and Traffic

Robert Ashworth / Flickr

After drastic declines in driving thanks to pandemic closures, traffic and carbon emissions are making a fast recovery as we inch toward a post-COVID world. The International Energy Agency has started releasing monthly data on carbon emissions, letting researchers understand trends from month to month and monitor changes as they happen. "In its latest Global Energy Review, the IEA found that Covid-19 touched off the biggest annual drop in carbon emissions ever," writes Liam Denning for Bloomberg, "down almost two billion tonnes, or about 6%."

However, "lower demand for electricity wasn’t the biggest factor behind that. The vast majority of it was explained by increasing penetration of renewable energy, whose share of global generation recorded its biggest annual gain ever." In the U.S., federal policy is also supporting a shift to renewable energy, with the Biden administration's focus on climate poised to "reset the economics of energy and related fields to take account of the climate challenge."

Because "a systemic problem like climate change demands systemic solutions," periodic and accidental reductions in emissions caused by global crises aren't enough to move toward a more sustainable future. If recent trends continue, "the power sector’s technology-based decline in emissions" will last well beyond the pandemic as major energy companies continue to invest in renewables and clean energy infrastructure.

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