Global energy emissions reached record high in 2022, IEA claims

2 Mar 2023

Image: © Zamrznuti tonovi/

A rise in oil and coal use was mitigated by the growth in clean energy, but the IEA said emissions are still on an ‘unsustainable growth trajectory’.

Despite the rise in clean energy technology worldwide, energy-related emissions reached a record high last year according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The agency’s latest emissions report found that these global emissions rose by nearly 1pc last year, reaching a new high of more than 36.8bn tonnes. The IEA said extreme weather events and an “unusually large” number of nuclear power plants being offline contributed to this rise.

Coal emissions grew by 1.6pc last year, due to various countries in Asia switching from gas to coal amid the global energy crisis. This switch was also noted “to a lesser degree” in European countries, according to the report.

This rise in coal use offset the 1.6pc decline in gas emissions, which was caused in part by countries tightening their gas use amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Oil emissions grew by 2.5pc last year due to a rise in air travel, but still remained below pre Covid-19 pandemic levels.

Rise in clean energy

The IEA noted that while last year was far smaller than the “exceptional jump” of more than 6pc in 2021, emissions are still on an “unsustainable growth trajectory”.

The agency said stronger action is needed to push the “clean energy transition” and to help countries meet their energy and climate goals.

Despite the record result, IEA executive director Fatih Birol said the growth in CO2 emissions would have been “nearly three times as high” without the growth of clean energy.

The agency said 550m tonnes of emissions were avoided by the increased deployment of clean energy technologies.

“The impacts of the energy crisis didn’t result in the major increase in global emissions that was initially feared – and this is thanks to the outstanding growth of renewables, EVs, heat pumps and energy efficient technologies,” Birol said.

“However, we still see emissions growing from fossil fuels, hindering efforts to meet the world’s climate targets.”

Birol said international fossil fuel companies are making “record revenues” and need to take their share of responsibility.

“It’s critical that they review their strategies to make sure they’re aligned with meaningful emissions reductions,” Birol said.

Oil and gas giant ExxonMobil posted a $56bn profit for 2022, which Reuters reported as a record high for the Western oil industry.

In January, a report claimed that ExxonMobil knew as much about the climate crisis as academic and government scientists in the 1970s, despite discrediting similar predictions for decades.

Last October, an EY report suggested that while businesses are starting to do better in disclosing their climate risks, they are also failing to act on decarbonisation and live up to their commitments.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic