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Proponents of urgent action to reduce greenhouse emissions in Canada usually maintain that the countries of the world are all cooperating to sharply reduce emissions, and that Canada must not separate itself from the “international community”. The purpose of this note is to provide data from some authoritative sources to test the validity of these claims.
British Petroleum is one of the most expert and respected sources of statistics on historical and current energy supply, demand and emissions. It produces an annual Statistical Review of World Energy and makes it available without charge. The 2018 edition of the Review provides data concerning the carbon dioxide equivalent emissions from energy combustion from countries, regions and the whole world over the period 2007 to 2017 inclusive. From 2006 to 2017:
- Global emissions increased by 3,365 megatonnes (Mt), from 30079 Mt to 33,444 Mt.
- The only regions that reduced emissions over the past decade are Europe, the Russian Commonwealth (CIS) countries, and North America.
- Emissions grew significantly in all other regions, but especially in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific regions.
- The non-OECD countries increased their emissions by 4,547 Mt, almost four times as fast as OECD countries’ emissions declined.
- Emissions in China and India alone increased by 3,000 Mt.
- China’s emissions alone increased at the monthly rate of 166 Mt; the increases in China’s emissions every three and a half months exceeded Canada’s 2017 annual emissions.
Using data from the BP Statistical Reviews back to 1990, when governments began setting emission reduction targets:
- The use of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) grew from 7 billion tonnes of oil equivalent (Gtoe) in 1990 to 11.4 Gtoe in 2016.
- The share of total world energy consumption held by fossil fuels declined from 88% to 86%; in effect, the world is “decarbonizing” at the rate of about 1% per decade, not urgently as claimed by proponents.
The International Energy Agency, in its Global Energy and CO2 Status Report of 2017, used a slightly different methodology than BP, but made similar findings. In 2017:
- Global emissions grew by 1.4% to 32.5 Gt.
- 72% of the growth in global energy demand was met by fossil fuels.
- World oil demand rose by 1.6% (or 1.5 million barrels per day), exceeding the annual average rate on 1% during the previous decade.
- Global natural gas demand grew by 3%.
- Global coal demand grew by 1%, reversing the decline in the previous two years.
The continuing growth in global emissions is the complete opposite of what the U.N and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change claim is required to meet the goals set out in the 2015 COP21 Agreement in Paris. The continuing growth in emissions, driven by the desire of the developing countries for higher incomes and living standards, show that there is nothing countries like Canada can do affect the overall trends, regardless of the costs incurred.
Robert Lyman is an Ottawa energy policy consultant. He was a public servant for 27 years and prior to that a diplomat for 10 years.