2023 global carbon emissions on track to reach their highest ever

Global analysis has found carbon emissions are likely to rise to their highest level ever in 2023, with Australia's emissions trending up.
Carbon emissions

Carbon emissions from fossil fuels are set to rise to their highest levels by the end of 2023, according to an international report by the Global Carbon Budget Project (GCBP).

That’s despite hundreds of countries and large companies committing to net zero by 2050.

The latest GCBP findings also showed there’s a 50% chance global temperatures will consistently be 1.5°C warmer in about seven years.

Here’s what you need to know.

Carbon emissions

Burning fossil fuels for everyday energy consumption, like coal, oil, and gas, releases carbon dioxide (CO₂) into the atmosphere.

Adding more CO₂ to the atmosphere causes hotter temperatures on Earth.

The 2023 carbon report has shown fossil fuels will release about 36.8 billion tonnes of CO₂ into the atmosphere this year, up by 1.1% from 2022.

Fossil fuels

The report found coal, oil and gas emissions are projected to have increased by between 0.5-1.5% this year.

The report forecasts emissions from international flights will rise by 28% this year from 2022. They significantly dropped during the COVID-19 pandemic.

1.5 degrees

UN member nations signed the ‘Paris Agreement’ in 2015 — a commitment that global average temperatures should not exceed preindustrial temperatures by more than 1.5°C.

The Industrial Revolution, which began in the 18th century, is when emissions gradually started to rise.

Based on the current rate of emissions, the report forecasts a one in two chance that, in around seven years, the world will consistently warm above the 1.5°C benchmark.

Australia’s carbon emissions

Australia’s emissions increased by 1.5% in 2022.

The report found Australia’s coal and oil usage has trended downwards over the past few years.

However, Australia recorded an uptick in gas used for energy consumption.

Other countries 2023

The UK recorded an 8.3% annual drop in emissions in 2022. Meanwhile, emissions are also falling in the U.S. and the EU.

The report noted China and India’s emissions are projected to increase. Indonesia’s emissions increased by 18.3% in 2022, the most out of the world’s largest economies.

Report co-author Dr Pep Canadell said “faster, larger, and sustained” climate change efforts were needed to minimise harm to “human health, the economy, and the environment”.

Net zero

Many global economies have committed to net zero by 2050. That requires balancing greenhouse gas emissions produced and taken out of the atmosphere.

The report documented efforts to take carbon out of the atmosphere through planting trees, equivalent to 5% of fossil emissions.

Report co-author Professor Corinne Le Quéré said: “Current efforts are not profound or widespread enough to put global emissions on a downward trajectory towards net zero”.

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