Climate Change and the Urgency Gap

Andrew Burger

A new BP report highlights the widening gap separating calls for climate change action and actual progress

The 2019 BP Statistical Review of World Energy highlights the widening divergence between global demands to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and avoid a climate change tipping point and actual progress. 

"There is a growing mismatch between societal demands for action on climate change and the actual pace of progress, with energy demand and carbon emissions growing at their fastest rate for years. The world is on an unsustainable path," BP Chief Economist Spencer Dale said.

"The longer carbon emissions continue to rise, the harder and more costly will be the necessary eventual adjustment to net-zero carbon emissions," added BP Group Chief Executive Bob Dudley.

2018: A year of increases in global energy demand and emissions

Global energy demand increased 2.9% and carbon emissions 2.0% in 2018, faster than any year since 2010-2011. China, the US and India collectively accounted for more than two-thirds of the global increase in energy demand. US energy consumption grew at its fastest rate in 30 years, BP found.

China's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions totaled 9,419.6 million metric tons last year, accounting for 28% of the global total. At 5017.9 million metric tons, the U.S. accounted for 14.9 percent, while India's 2,481.1 million accounted for 7.4 percent.

Turning to fuels, all except renewables increased faster than their 10-year averages in 2018, but natural gas contributed more than 40 percent of the increase in global energy consumption. Furthermore, natural gas production and consumption rose more than 5% year-to-year, one of the fastest rates of growth in both demand and output in more than 30 years.

In addition, coal production rose 4.3% and consumption 1.4%, the second consecutive year of annual increases in the wake of three consecutive years of decline (2014-2016). India and China were the biggest consumers, while China and India accounted for the largest increases in coal production.

U.S. oil and gas production posted the largest ever increase in annual production for any country in 2018. The vast bulk came from onshore shale oil and gas production.

Global renewable energy capacity increased 14.5 percent last year, the second largest contributor to 2018's increase and not far off 2017's record-high. That said, renewables accounted for only around one-third of the worldwide increase in total power generation, BP highlights. 

Renewables' share of global electricity production rises

Renewables accounted one-third of the net increase in electricity generation globally in 2018. Coal followed at 31% and new natural gas power generation increased 25 percent.

That raised renewables' share of worldwide electricity generation from 8.4% to 9.3%. Coal continued to account for the largest share at 38 percent, however. 

Renewable energy capacity rose the most in China in 2018 at 32 metric tons-oil equivalent (mtoe) and surpassed growth in OECD countries (26 mtoe) for the first time, according to BP's latest annual statistical review.

In terms of renewable generation technology, solar generation increased 30 mtoe, while wind power generation capacity rose to 32 mtoe, accounting for more than 40% of global renewables growth last year.


Energy & Economics