Global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels hit record high

Global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels hit record high

A recent proliferation of analysis on carbonisation or decarbonisation is taking a proportion of the write-ups worldwide. This article on Global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels will hit a record high this year is very detailed and is worth reading. Here it is below.

The featured image above is Credit: Robert Timoney / Alamy Stock Photo

Analysis: Global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels hit record high in 2022

 

Global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and cement have increased by 1.0% in 2022, new estimates suggest, hitting a new record high of 36.6bn tonnes of CO2 (GtCO2).

The estimates come from the 2022 Global Carbon Budget report by the Global Carbon Project. It finds that the increase in fossil emissions in 2022 has been primarily driven by a strong increase in oil emissions as global travel continues to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. Coal and gas emissions grew more slowly, though both had record emissions in 2022.

Total global CO2 emissions – including land use and fossil CO2 – increased by approximately 0.8% in 2022, driven by a combination of steady land-use emissions between 2021 and 2022 and increasing fossil CO2 emissions. However, total CO2 emissions remain below their highs set in 2019 and have been relatively flat since 2015.

The 17th edition of the Global Carbon Budget, which is published today, also reveals:

    • The remaining carbon budget keeping warming below 1.5C will be gone in nine years, if emissions remain at current levels.
    • The increase in global fossil emissions in 2022 was driven by a small increase in US emissions and a larger increase in Indian and rest-of-the-world emissions. Chinese emissions saw a small decline, while EU emissions remained largely unchanged from 2021.
    • Most of the increase in emissions was from oil. Coal saw a slight increase in emissions – somewhat smaller than might have been expected given the global energy crisis – while gas emissions remained flat and emissions from cement saw a slight decline
    • Global CO2 concentrations set a new record of 417.2 parts per million (ppm), up 2.5ppm from 2021 levels. Atmospheric CO2 concentrations are now 51% above pre-industrial levels.
    • The effects of climate change have reduced the CO2 uptake of the ocean sink by around 4% and the land sink by around 17%.

Global emissions remain relatively stable

The Global Carbon Project estimates that global emissions of CO2 – including land use and fossil CO2 – will remain relatively high at 40.5GtCO2 in 2022, but still below their 2019 peak of 40.9GtCO2.

The authors note that these emissions “are approximately constant since 2015” due to a modest decline in land-use emissions balancing out modest increases in fossil CO2.

The 2022 report includes small revisions to emissions estimates from previous years. The new figures suggest that emissions in recent years have been a little higher than those reported in the 2021 budget. The largest changes are in land-use emissions, which account for approximately three quarters of the upward revision in the 2022 budget over the past decade.

The figure below shows 2022 (solid blue line), 2021(dashed blue) and 2020 (dashed red) global CO2 emissions estimates from the Global Carbon Project, along with the uncertainty (shaded area) of the new 2022 budget. The new 2022 budget lies roughly halfway between the old 2020 budget (which showed continued growth in emissions) and the 2021 budget (which showed flat emissions).

Annual total global CO2 emissions – from fossil and land-use change – between 1959 and 2022 for the 2020, 2021 and 2022 versions of the Global Carbon Project’s Global Carbon Budget, in billions of tonnes of CO2 per year (GtCO2). Shaded area shows the estimated one-sigma uncertainty for the 2022 budget. Data from the Global Carbon Project; chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts.While the apparent flattening of emissions in the 2022 budget is better than a world of increasing emissions, this good news comes with a few important caveats.

First, to meet global climate targets of limiting warming to well-below 2C, emissions do not just need to stabilise. They need to decline rapidly, reaching net-zero emissions in the latter half of the 21st century. As long as emissions remain significantly above zero, the world will continue to warm.

Second, the uncertainties surrounding land-use emissions remain quite high. Therefore, it is hard to rule out a scenario where these emissions have actually continued to increase over the past decade. Further research and data collection is needed to provide a better picture of trends in global land-use emissions in recent years.

The figure below breaks down global emissions (black line) in the 2022 budget into fossil (grey) and land-use (yellow) components. Fossil CO2 emissions represent the bulk of total global emissions in recent years, accounting for approximately 91% of emissions in 2022 (compared to 9% for land-use). This represents a large change from the first half of the 20th century, when land-use emissions were approximately the same as fossil emissions.

Global CO2 emissions (black line) separated out into from fossil (grey) and land-use change (yellow) components between 1959 and 2022 from the 2022 Global Carbon Budget. Note that fossil CO2 emissions are inclusive of the cement carbonation sink. Data from the Global Carbon Project; chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts.Global emissions from land-use are expected to be approximately 3.9GtCO2 in 2022. This is a slight decline from 2021 emissions, but the large uncertainty in the estimate makes it difficult to be confident in year-to-year changes.

Three countries – Indonesia, Brazil and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – are responsible for approximately 60% of global land-use emissions. Land-use change emissions over time from those three countries (along with their estimated uncertainties) are shown in the figure below.

Annual CO2 emissions from land-use change in Indonesia (blue line), Brazil (yellow), and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (red) from 1959 through 2021.
Annual CO2 emissions from land-use change in Indonesia (blue line), Brazil (yellow), and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (red) from 1959 through 2021. Figure from the Global Carbon Project.

The Global Carbon Project finds that approximately half of the global emissions from deforestation (~6.7GtCO2 per year) are counterbalanced by reforestation (~3.5GtCO2 per year), while peat drainage and fires make a smaller contribution to emissions of around 0.8GtCO2.

The apparent decline in the net land-use emissions is likely driven by growing removals from reforestation, the report says.

Modest increase in fossil emissions despite declines in China

Despite a relatively modest increase of 1.0% in 2022 (with an uncertainty range of 0.1% to 1.9%), global fossil CO2 emissions will likely surpass the pre-pandemic high in 2019 to set a new record at 36.6GtCO2.

This represents a continued recovery in global emissions from the declines during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, as well as a failure of hopes that a “green recovery” could start taking emissions on a downward trend.

However, despite continued increases in fossil CO2 emissions, the rate of growth has slowed noticeably over the past decade.

The Global Carbon Project points out that “the latest data confirm that the rate of increase in fossil CO2 emissions has slowed, from +3% per year during the 2000s to about +0.5% per year in the past decade”.

The figure below shows global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, divided into emissions from China (red shading), India (yellow), the US (bright blue), EU (dark blue) and the remainder of the world (grey).

Annual fossil CO2 emissions for major emitters and rest-of-the-world from 1959-2022, excluding the cement carbonation sink as national-level values are not available. Note that 2022 numbers are preliminary estimates. Data from the Global Carbon Project; chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts.The US will likely see emissions increase by around 1.5% in 2022, driven by a strong rise in gas emissions (+4.7%), a modest rise in oil emissions (+2%) and a strong decline in coal emissions (-4.6%).

The European Union (EU) is likely to see a 0.8% decline in emissions in 2022, driven by lower gas use associated with Russia’s attack on Ukraine and the resulting global energy market disruption.

EU demand for gas may be down by as much as 10% this year, while emissions from coal are expected to increase by close to 7% as it substitutes for high-cost gas.

In China, emissions declined by around 0.9% in 2022, primarily driven by continued lockdowns associated with Covid-19 that slowed both industrial activity and economic growth.

Chinese emissions show declines in emissions from oil (-2.8%), gas (-1.1%) and cement production (-7%), only showing a slight increase in emissions from coal (+0.1%). The Global Carbon Project notes that cement, in particular, played a large role in declining Chinese emissions due to a slowdown in the property market. (See Carbon Brief’s recent detailed analysis by Lauri Myllyvirta of China’s Q3 2022 emissions.)

Indian emissions are projected to increase by 6% in 2022, mostly due to a large (+5%) increase in coal emissions as well as higher (+10%) oil use as the transport sector recovers from pandemic declines.

The rest of the world (including international aviation and shipping) is projected to see a 1.7% increase in emissions, driven by a rise in coal (+1.6%), oil (+3.1%) and cement (+3%). Gas emissions in the rest of the world are projected to decline very slightly in 2022 (-0.1%).

The chart below shows total emissions for each year between 2019 and 2022, as well as the contributions from major emitters and the rest of the world countries. Annual emissions for 2019, 2020, 2021 and the estimates for 2022 are shown by the black bars. The coloured bars show the change in emissions between each set of years, broken down by country. Negative values show reductions in emissions, while positive values reflect emission increases.

Annual global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels (black bars) and drivers of changes between years by fuel (coloured bars), excluding the cement carbonation sink. Negative values indicate reductions in emissions. Note that the y-axis does not start at zero. Data from the Global Carbon Project; chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts.Global fossil CO2 emissions are now approximately 0.9% higher than in 2019. While emissions in the US, EU and the rest of the world remain below pre-pandemic levels, emissions in China are now 5.8% above 2019 levels and are 9.3% above 2019 levels in India.

The figure below shows how global and national emissions in the years 2020 (blue bars), 2021 (yellow) and 2022 (red) compare to 2019 emissions.

Percent change in CO2 between 2019 and 2020, 2021 and 2022 for the world as a whole and for major emitting countries/regions. Note that global emissions are inclusive of the cement carbonation sink, but national inventories are not. Data from the Global Carbon Project; chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts.The Global Carbon Project also notes that emissions declined over the past decade (2012-21) in 24 nations despite continued domestic economic growth, bringing hope in long-term decoupling of CO2 emissions and the economy.

Belgium Croatia Czech Republic Denmark
Estonia Finland France Germany
Hong Kong Israel Italy Japan
Luxembourg Malta Mexico Netherlands
Norway Singapore Slovenia Sweden
Switzerland United Kingdom USA Uruguay

The 24 nations where emissions have declined over 2012-21. Source: Global Carbon Project.These 24 countries represent around a quarter of global CO2 emissions. Fifteen of these countries also had significant declines in consumption-based emissions, which account for emissions embodied in the import and export of goods.

Coal and gas hits record high emissions

Global fossil fuel emissions primarily result from the combustion of coal, oil and gas.

Coal is responsible for more emissions than any other fossil fuel, representing approximately 40% of global fossil CO2 emissions in 2022. Oil is the second largest contributor at 32% of fossil CO2, while gas and cement production round out the pack at 21% and 4%, respectively.

These percentages reflect both the amount of each fossil fuel consumed globally, but also differences in CO2 intensities. Coal results in the most CO2 emitted per unit of heat or energy produced, followed by oil and gas.

The figure below shows global CO2 emissions from different fuels over time. While coal emissions (grey shading) increased rapidly in the mid-2000s to support the unprecedented growth of the Chinese economy, it has largely plateaued since 2013. However, coal use increased significantly in 2021 and modestly in 2022, causing 2022 to slightly edge out 2014 and set a new record of 15.1GtCO2.

By contrast, gas (blue) and oil (red) emissions have steadily grown prior to the pandemic. Gas rapidly recovered from Covid-19 disruptions, setting new all-time records for emissions in both 2021 and 2022. Oil emissions, by contrast, still remain below pre-pandemic 2019 highs as travel has not fully recovered from its severe drop during the pandemic.

Annual CO2 emissions by fossil fuel from 1959-2022, excluding the cement carbonation sink. Note that 2022 numbers are preliminary estimates. Data from the Global Carbon Project; chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts.Global coal emissions are projected to rise by around 1% in 2022, relative to 2021 levels, driven primarily by increases in India, the EU and the rest of the world, despite continued declines in coal use in the US.

Oil emissions are projected to rise by around 2.2% in 2022, compared to 2021. This has been caused by continued recovery of the transport sector from pandemic-related disruptions, though it will remain below 2019 levels.

Gas emissions are expected to decline slightly by around 0.2%, driven primarily by large declines in gas use in the EU associated with high energy costs due to the war in Ukraine.

Cement emissions are projected to decrease by around 1.6%, caused largely by declines in Chinese cement production for construction.

The total emissions for each year between 2019 and 2022, as well as the change in emissions for each fuel between years, are shown in the figure below.

Annual global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels (black bars) and drivers of changes between years by fuel (coloured bars), excluding the cement carbonation sink. Negative values indicate reductions in emissions. Note that the y-axis does not start at zero. Data from the Global Carbon Project; chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts.

The global carbon ‘budget’

Every year, the Global Carbon Project provides an estimate of the “global carbon budget”.

This budget is based on estimates of the release of CO2 through human activity and its uptake by the oceans and land, with the remainder adding to atmospheric concentrations of this greenhouse gas.

(This differs from the commonly used term “remaining carbon budget”, referring to the amount of CO2 that can still be released in the future while keeping warming below global limits of 1.5 or 2C.)

The most recent budget, including estimated values for 2022, is shown in the figure below. Values above zero represent anthropogenic sources of CO2 – from fossil fuels and cement (grey shading) and land use (yellow) – while values below zero represent the growth in atmospheric CO2 (bright blue) and the ocean (dark blue) and land (green) “carbon sinks” that remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

In short, any CO2 emissions that are not absorbed by the oceans or land vegetation will accumulate in the atmosphere. While observations of both emissions and carbon sinks have improved over time, the budget does not fully balance every year due to remaining uncertainties, particularly in sinks. On average, the budget imbalance is close to zero, but some individual years may have more emissions than sinks or vice versa.

Annual global carbon budget of sources and sinks from 1959-2022. Fossil CO2 emissions include the cement carbonation sink. 2022 numbers are preliminary estimates. Data from the Global Carbon Project; chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts.The atmospheric CO2 concentration increased 2.5 parts per million (ppm) in 2021 and is projected to increase by around 2.5ppm in 2022, resulting in global atmospheric concentrations of 417.2ppm on average for the year.

This represents an increase in atmospheric CO2 of around 51%, relative to pre-industrial levels.

As the chart below illustrates, the fraction of CO2 emissions that end up in the atmosphere varies from year to year. The grey dashed lines shows that around 47% of total CO2 emissions have remained in the atmosphere each year over the past decade, with the remainder being taken up by ocean and land sinks.

Fraction of anthropogenic CO2 emissions accumulating in the atmosphere from 1959 through 2021.
Fraction of anthropogenic CO2 emissions accumulating in the atmosphere from 1959 through 2021. Figure from the Global Carbon Project.

The ocean carbon sink grew rapidly over the past two decades, absorbing approximately 26% of global emissions in 2022. The land sink has also continued to increase and is projected to absorb around 31% of global emissions in 2022. These sinks are expected to grow as CO2 emissions increase, as the amount of CO2 absorbed by both the ocean and land scales proportional to atmospheric concentrations.

The new Global Carbon Budget report warns that climate change has already reduced the CO2 uptake of the ocean sink by around 4% and the land sink by around 17%, compared to a theoretical world without climate change.

If emissions continue to increase, the portion of global emissions remaining in the atmosphere – that is, the airborne fraction – will grow, making the amount of climate change the world experiences worse than it otherwise would be.

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Solving Europe’s energy challenge

Solving Europe’s energy challenge

Summer 2022 is ending, and oil prices in the market continue in their well-known volatility. The barrel of oil, despite fears about its supply, is now at a price made worse by recession concerns that continue to cap any market forces.The global market, however, continues to fear Russia’s willingness to use energy as a weapon to put pressure on its adversaries. Especially since deliveries of Russian gas to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline are still suspended, fueling fears of shortages for the forthcoming winter.And if that is not enough, all of the above could be apprehended as not solving Europe’s energy challenge of going through this winter. Far from it, last week, the members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies (OPEC+) decided to reduce their total production volume by 100,000 barrels per day. A symbolic reduction that “suggests that this gathering of producers is ready to defend the environment from high prices,” say analysts.  Here is a MEED’s view on the issue. 
With oil and gas prices surging, the countries of Europe face a looming winter energy crisis. Can the Middle East and North Africa help overcome the challenge?

Solving Europe’s energy challenge

 

Published in partnership with

One of the most apparent aspects of the Russia-Ukraine conflict is the rapid increase in energy prices brought on by Moscow’s reduction in exports to its European neighbours.

In 2021, Russia was the largest exporter of oil and gas to Europe, supplying some 40 per cent of its energy requirements, including 100 per cent of the total gas imports of five EU states, according to the International Energy Agency.

The continent’s three largest economies – Germany, Italy and France – depended on Russian gas for 46 per cent, 34 per cent and 18 per cent of their energy needs, respectively.

The imposition of sanctions on Russia in March 2022, followed by Moscow’s threat to suspend hydrocarbon exports, has resulted in a surge in energy prices.

Opec’s crude basket price increased from $78 a barrel at the start of the year to $122 in early June, while Henry Hub natural gas prices more than doubled from $3.8 a million British thermal units (BTUs) to $8.7 a million BTUs over the same period.

Expensive energy bills

This rapid energy inflation has been passed on to consumers through higher electricity bills.

In the UK, for instance, the energy regulator Ofgem estimates that the default tariff price cap will more than double from £1,300 ($1,529) in January to £3,580 in October, and reach a peak of £4,266 in the first three months of 2023, when demand will be highest during the colder winter months.

Replicated across the continent, this is likely to result in millions of households entering ‘fuel poverty’ as they struggle to pay their energy bills.

The Mena region is well-positioned to plug the shortfall in Russian gas exports as European governments scramble to source gas from new markets to reduce their dependence on Moscow

Reducing reliance on Russia

The subject was not surprisingly a central theme of debate at Siemens Energy’s Middle East & Africa Energy Week held in June, where attendees agreed on two main conclusions drawn from the crisis.

The first was that the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) is well-positioned to plug the shortfall in Russian gas exports as European governments scramble to source gas from new markets to reduce their dependence on Moscow.

The GCC alone globally exports almost exactly half of the 411 billion cubic metres of gas that Russia supplies to Europe annually. Most of this is in the form of long-term liquefied natural gas (LNG) contracts to east Asia, but there is some limited capacity available – primarily from Qatar – to fill part of the shortfall.

European nations have been quick to recognise this. For example, following a visit to the region by its Vice-Chancellor and Climate & Energy Minister Robert Habeck in March, Germany – Europe’s largest energy market – is now fast-tracking the construction of two LNG import terminals and has entered a long-term energy partnership with Qatar, the world’s largest LNG exporter.

Energy Week

The second principal finding from the Middle East & Africa Energy Week was that the conflict would act as an additional catalyst for renewable energy development as nations globally attempt to diversify their energy sources and reduce their dependence on imported fossil fuels.

This was in keeping with the results of a poll of up to 400 of the event’s participants. The survey, which forms the central component of the Siemens Energy’s Middle East & Africa Energy Transition Readiness Index, revealed that attendees considered the acceleration of renewables as the highest priority among 11 energy policies in their efforts to tackle the climate crisis, as well as the one with the greatest potential impact.

The Middle East is already taking a clear lead in this as it sets ambitious targets for clean, renewable capacity. For example, Saudi Arabia is looking to scale up its share of gas and renewable energy in its energy mix to 50 per cent by 2030.

Similarly, the UAE has set ambitious targets for 2050: to improve energy efficiency by 40 per cent, reduce emissions from the power sector by 70 per cent and increase the share of renewables in the energy mix to 44 per cent.

While Europe is looking for alternative gas supplies to urgently fill the gap in the short term, there is little doubt that in the longer term renewable energies and hydrogen will dominate the energy markets
Dietmar Siersdorfer, Siemens Energy

Hydrogen

In the long run, the energy crisis also provides momentum for the development of hydrogen production in the region, one of four other central themes emerging from the Energy Week.

Demand for hydrogen in Europe alone is forecast to double to 30 million tonnes a year (t/y) by 2030 and to 95 million t/y by 2050. Thanks to its geographical position, the Middle East is ideally located to meet this demand either by ship or pipeline.

Today, there are at least 46 known green hydrogen and ammonia projects across the Middle East and Africa, worth an estimated $92bn, almost all of which are export-orientated.

“While Europe is looking for alternative gas supplies to urgently fill the gap in the short term, there is little doubt that in the longer term renewable energies and hydrogen will dominate the energy markets. That the robust mix of the energy (gas and renewables) will make the energy system more resilient and support energy supply security while we, at the same time, move us at a fast pace into a renewable future,” says Dietmar Siersdorfer, Siemens Energy’s Managing Director for the Middle East and UAE.

Electricity to Europe

Another unintended consequence of the Ukraine crisis is to turn attention to direct electricity supply from the Mena region to Europe.

Although plans for exploiting the high solar irradiation levels and space provided by the Sahara desert through initiatives such as DESERTEC have long been mooted as an alternative solution, a combination of the crisis, lower costs and improving technologies are increasing impetus.

Some projects are already capitalising on the trend. For example, a joint venture of Octopus Energy and cable firm Xlinks recently received regulatory approval for a 3.6GW subsea interconnector between Morocco and the UK, using energy produced from vast solar arrays in the desert.

A similar project is the 2GW high-voltage EuroAfrica connector currently under construction linking Egypt with Greece via Crete. Plans are also under way for a third power connection between Morocco and Spain, which today is the only operational electricity link between Africa and Europe.

With the Egyptian-Saudi interconnector now under construction, and agreements recently reached for interconnectors between Saudi Arabia and Jordan and Kuwait and Iraq, the region is growing closer to supplying power to Europe directly.

“The development of regional grids has brought the prospect of direct current connection with Europe ever closer,” says Siemens Energy’s VP and Head of Grid Stabilisation in the Middle East, Elyes San-Haji. “Due to its plentiful solar resources, the Mena region could become an energy hub with a global network of high-voltage highways and super grids.”

Connection benefits

Interconnection makes sense on many levels. Not only would Europe benefit from a diversified, economical and renewable energy source, but its season of peak demand, winter, coincides with when supply is lowest in the Middle East, and vice-versa. Power transfer would not necessarily have to be in one direction only.

The Ukraine conflict and ensuing energy crisis have created an unprecedented opportunity for the Middle East and Africa to become more closely integrated with Europe. Whether in the form of fuel exports, either gas or potentially green hydrogen fuels, or direct electricity supply, the Arab world has never had a better chance to become the energy partner of choice for its European neighbours.

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Can the electric vehicle revolution solve the climate crisis

Can the electric vehicle revolution solve the climate crisis

The supposedly ongoing Energy Transition would most probably be jeopardised in the developing countries as demand for all fossil fuels is projected to grow by two-thirds by 2050.   The reasons are that the electric vehicle revolution would have difficulty reaching, let alone solving the climate crisis and creating opportunities for developing countries.

Achieving an equitable energy transition would fail short unless the interests of developed and developing countries are better aligned.

The above image is of CleanTechnica

Can the electric vehicle revolution solve the climate crisis and create opportunities for developing countries?

Electric vehicles (EVs) are confidently expected to decarbonize road transportation, contribute substantially to the net zero agenda, and so help to solve the climate crisis. But as Ben Jones points out in a recent WIDER Working Paper, a rapid growth of global supplies of minerals and rare metals is a prerequisite. This in turn opens new prospects for mineral-abundant countries, many of which are less developed economies.

Tony Addison, former Chief Economist of UNU-WIDER, and myself explored these prospects in a series of high-level UN Roundtables over the course of 2021 — an opportunity to communicate our ideas to many critical stakeholders in all continents. Here, and in a related blog, I lay out the opportunities, and risks, that took centre stage during these discussions.

Barriers and risks

It is increasingly assumed that EVs are the future of transportation. The International Energy Agency (IEA) reports that there were some 16.5 million EVs on the world’s roads by 2022. That number is projected to increase seven-fold, by 2040. Annual global sales could rise from 2.5 million to over 30 million by 2030.

But, there are doubters and their doubts do have some substance.

There are several complicating factors that can compromise the promise that EVs are said to offer. These risks should be considered carefully before any country — and particularly any developing country — puts too much skin in the game.

First, there are the high costs of installing sufficient accessible charging points, especially in countries with low levels of electricity access (access levels below 40% are quite common). Second, there are question marks about battery longevity and the costs and technical challenges of both replacements and recycling. Third, the engineering complexities and the task of upskilling mechanics trained on conventional internal-combustion engines (ICEs) need to be considered. Fourth, the greater weight of EVs caused by their heavyweight batteries is a particular concern for low-income countries that already struggle to maintain road infrastructure.

And finally, charging EVs with largely coal-fired power — which would especially be the case in the most populous countries of India and China — will not much reduce carbon emissions.

Opportunities

These risks notwithstanding, there are opportunities for several developing economies to benefit from the EV revolution, but mainly as providers of critical mineral inputs into EV manufacturing, rather than as consumers and users of EVs.

Indeed, a substantial share of today’s global reserves of the key metals needed in quantity for the transition to clean energy are located in lower-income countries. Examples include 68% of lithium, 47% of manganese, 34% of nickel, 40% of platinum, 70% of titanium, 41% of zinc, 46% of copper, and 68% of cobalt.

A recent WIDER Working Paper by Ericsson and Löf ranks 40 lower-income countries that have some potential to take advantage of their endowments of these and other metals. The deeper analysis of this potential in their study is suggested reading for anyone who wants to learn more.

However, the realization of the alleged potential of EVs for developing counties will be far from plain sailing. Here are some of the risks for developing countries hoping to take advantage:

  • The volumes of critical metals required for batteries alone are huge; especially cobalt, lithium, and nickel. If the present supply constraints cannot be addressed, then the price of EVs is likely to remain prohibitively high for many prospective users without huge subsidies like those seen, particularly, in China.
  • To make EVs renewable, they need to be charged using renewable energy. It is not clear that the additional renewable energy needed will keep pace with demand for EVs, and this will strain global critical metal supplies even further.
  • Environmental lobbies and governments might well go cold on EVs, as they did previously on diesel vehicles. The overall carbon-reducing credentials of EVs are already under question because of the substantial emissions and other environmental harm associated with the mining and processing of their metallic inputs.
  • Some of the countries most richly endowed with critical metals are also well-known for unacceptable human rights practices in their mining sectors. The DRC is perhaps the leading example. It provides almost 70% of the global supply of cobalt — a critical battery metal — with an estimated 15–30% of this produced in small-scale artisanal mines that use child labour and environmentally disastrous methods. The discussions at the 2021 UN Roundtables revealed this to be a matter of universal concern.
Another word of caution for resource-endowed developing nations

It is a common political assumption that the mere presence of a critical mineral resource justifies large investments in downstream processing to enhance national value-added. But this can be a seriously misleading assumption. Experience confirms the inherent problems of building viable domestic processing: certainly no developing country can assume that a rich endowment of any critical mineral will lead inexorably to the eventual emergence of a commercially-sustainable industrial output based on those minerals. In a related blog, I probe more deeply into some of the challenges faced to develop such national value-added, using Bolivia’s efforts to capitalize on its extremely rich endowment of lithium as one example.

Strategies for harnessing the potential in developing countries

Many low- and middle-income countries that are already highly dependent on extractive resources have learned how difficult it is to cope with the inherent instability of the prices and the markets in which these resources are traded. The WIDER working paper by Ericsson and Löf referenced above confirms that a large sub-set of those countries have the potential to significantly increase their mining output to meet the new demands for the global energy transition. But, partly for the reasons articulated above, prospects for doing so face uncertainties which are probably even more acute than encountered in the past.

What strategies can help address such uncertainties?

Two modest suggestions can be offered. First, acting on good evidence is vital. High-quality data on mineral endowments is needed — not only their volumes, but also whether they are of marketable quality, commercially viable, and at what price? The geological record underpinning such data is merely the first part of this requirement. Further, all potential supplying countries need to be very well informed about global trends in both EV uptake and above all competing suppliers.

Second, it is important to develop a deep and regularly updated awareness of the market and its uncertainties, and use this to maintain a grounded macroeconomic forecast. This includes the need to be cautious about increasing tax rates on mining products when, in the short term, there are high prices and bullish forecasts of future demand. These are rapidly changing markets; today’s competitive positions can easily disappear.

Alan Roe is a Non-Resident Senior Research Fellow at UNU-WIDER. He has written extensively in both books, academic journals and for other outlets including the first full-scale statistical analysis of flows of funds in the UK. His publications have also included early papers on interest rate policies in developing economies and on the particular problems of monetary management in Africa.​

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Fossil Fuel ‘Addiction’ Is Sabotaging Every Sustainable Development Goal

Fossil Fuel ‘Addiction’ Is Sabotaging Every Sustainable Development Goal

Oil exporters of the MENA amongst many others need to breathe with their two lungs: oil and gas, revenues of which account for each country’s earnings and cover all of their household and business needs.
Would a change to clean energy and/or a sharp and lasting drop in the price of hydrocarbons, outlets, or reserves be fatal or beneficial for these countries?
Hydrocarbon revenues apart from their addictive characteristics, play a considerable role and have not only shaped the respective economies but also the mentality of the related societies.  Common Dreams’ article on Fossil Fuel ‘Addiction’ Sabotaging Every Sustainable Development Goal is quite alarming.  Here it is.

Fossil Fuel ‘Addiction’ Is Sabotaging Every Sustainable Development Goal: Report

“Every day that we burn fossil fuels is one more day that we’re undermining these goals for a sustainable, livable planet,” said one campaigner.

A first-of-its-kind report published Wednesday warns that the continued extraction and burning of fossil fuels worldwide—particularly in the rich countries most responsible for planet-warming carbon emissions—is imperiling every single sustainable development goal adopted by United Nations member states in 2015.

The 17 SDGs are far-reaching, ranging from ending global poverty to eliminating hunger to combating the climate emergency, and achieving them by 2030 would require ambitious and coordinated action on a global scale.

But world leaders’ persistent commitment to fossil fuels, which the new report dubs an “addiction,” is rendering such action impossible by “amplifying the impacts of climate change and placing the health and stability of both natural and human systems at risk.”

“Fossil fuel addiction poisons every earnest attempt we make to tackle the sustainable development and climate agendas.”

“Fossil fuel addiction poisons every earnest attempt we make to tackle the sustainable development and climate agendas,” said Tzeporah Berman, chair of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative. “Despite a robust pile of evidence that fossil fuels are core to our problems, governments are not moving and international cooperation is lacking.”

Authored by researchers at the University of Sussex on behalf of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative and other civil society organizations, the report makes use of more than 400 academic articles and advocacy group reports to closely examine for the first time the threat that fossil fuels pose to each of the SDGs.

By 2030, the report notes, the climate crisis could push 122 million more people into extreme poverty worldwide by intensifying extreme weather events, which often cause mass destruction and displacement. Yet globally, “governments spend three times more money on fuel subsidies than the annual amount needed to eradicate poverty,” the researchers observe.

Fossil fuels are also undermining global efforts to combat hunger, which has spiked during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Increases in global temperatures, shifting rainfall patterns, extreme weather events, and elevated surface carbon dioxide concentrations from burning fossil fuels will reduce the yields of key crops,” the report states. “Fossil fuel production, and fossil fuel corporations’ carbon offset schemes, are pulling vast amounts of land away from productive uses, such as agriculture.”

And on down the list. Promoting good health and well-being, guaranteeing quality education for all, achieving gender equality, ensuring clean water and sanitation, transitioning to renewable energy, and securing lasting peace are all tasks that a fossil fuel-dependent status quo has made unachievable, the new report warns.

“By 2030, humanity needs to have halved global emissions, while at the same time achieving all 17 SDGs,” said report co-author Freddie Daley, a research associate at the University of Sussex. “This is an impossible endeavor without concerted global efforts to constrain and phase out fossil fuel production in a fast, fair, and equitable manner, with the wealthy nations that continue to benefit from fossil-fueled economic growth leading the way.”

“This research lays out the incompatibility of sustainable development and fossil fuels—and what is at stake if we fail to address unchecked fossil fuel expansion,” Daley added.

To dramatically change course and put the world on a path toward achieving sustainable development objectives, the report recommends an entirely new international framework, such as a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty with “binding commitments that constrain fossil fuel production globally.”

Such a treaty, the researchers suggest, should include three prongs:

  1. Non-proliferation. End new exploration and production by issuing a worldwide moratorium on the extraction of new fossil fuel reserves.
  2. Equitable Phase Down. Commit countries to phase down production in existing projects, in line with equity and the 1.5°C global temperature goal.
  3. Accelerate a Fair Transition. Provide finance and technological assistance to aid those most dependent on fossil fuel production to climate change to diversify their economies and move away from fossil fuels, scale up access to renewable energy and ensure a just transition for all.

“Every day that we burn fossil fuels is one more day that we’re undermining these goals for a sustainable, livable planet,” Jean Su, the director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.

“The first step to fighting the extinction of countless species and the scourge of global poverty is to turn off the spigot of dangerous fossil fuels,” Su added. “That’s the only way we can build a just, peaceful future that protects the dignity of humanity and all life on Earth.”

 

Opportunities arising from Middle East’s Asian pivot

Opportunities arising from Middle East’s Asian pivot

The Middle East has always been considered an energy exporter to Asean, but this relationship has become more nuanced in recent years, especially as the former has shifted its focus to boosting non-oil exports.

Notably, countries such as Indonesia and Singapore have benefited.

Late last year, the Indonesian government announced they had secured US$32.7 billion worth of investment commitments from United Arab Emirates (UAE) businesses in various sectors, such as vaccine manufacturing and distribution.

“Indonesia is a very typical case of how I think Asean is becoming a magnet for foreign direct investment (FDI) from the Gulf countries,” said Gyorgy Busztin, a visiting research professor at the Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore.

Dr Busztin cited Asean’s political stability (outside of Myanmar) as well as a general lack of labour unrest as key factors that draw these Gulf countries to the region, even as he qualified that these countries have to be looked on a case-by-case basis.

“Compatibility, stability, and predictability, which are, of course, combined with the presence of a large, young, and highly trained workforce – it all comes together very nicely.”

Singapore too has benefited from the relationship.

A spokesperson from the Singapore Business Council, Qatar, noted that with Qatar is diversifying its economy away from oil and gas as part of its National Vision 2030, some of the key sectors they are looking at include sustainability and technology.

These are sectors in which Singapore has strong capabilities, he said.

“This makes businesses that wish to expand outside of the Middle East region look to Singapore as one of the key destinations to explore opportunities and use it as a base to springboard into the wider region due to its strategic location and easy access from the Middle East,” he said.

Alessandro Arduino, principal research fellow at the Middle East Institute at the National University of Singapore, added: “Expertise from Singapore will be beneficial to development in the Gulf and at the same time, can increase profitable cooperation between the Gulf and South-east Asia in areas ranging from artificial intelligence to Internet of Things, and smart cities.”

Leveraging Asean’s strengths

Economic ties between the Middle East and Asean have strengthened significantly since the first Asean-GCC Joint Vision was adopted in 2009.

In 2019, the two blocs further agreed to finalise the Asean-GCC Framework of Cooperation for 2020-2024 to advance collaboration in multiple sectors including smart cities, energy, connectivity, agriculture and halal products. Bilateral partnerships between individual countries have also risen.

The Singapore-UAE Comprehensive Partnership (2019) and the Malaysian Investment Development Authority’s (MIDA) MoU with the Investment Promotion Agency of Qatar (2019) are notable examples.

Opportunities arising from Middle East’s Asian pivot

Heidi Toribio, Regional Co-head, Client Coverage, Asia, Corporate, Commercial and Institutional Banking at Standard Chartered

Heidi Toribio, regional co-head, client coverage, Asia, corporate, commercial and institutional banking at Standard Chartered, said: “As countries across the Middle East diversify into new non-oil sectors, Asean is emerging as an important trade and investment destination.”

In 2020, investments from the Middle East into Asean reached US$700 million, a three-fold growth from 2017. In the first three quarters in 2021 alone, merchandise imports to Asean from the Middle East grew more than 30 percent year-on-year, reaching US$52 billion in value, she noted.

According to a survey of Middle Eastern companies commissioned by Standard Chartered and prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers, 82 per cent of Middle East respondents expect more than 10 per cent growth in their Asean business revenues this year.

They identified access to the large and growing Asean consumer market (60 per cent); access to a global market (from Asean) enabled by a network of Free Trade Agreements (58 per cent); and diversification of production footprint (51 per cent) as key reasons why they are interested in the region.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is also expected to attract more investments; all of the respondents agreed that the ratification of the agreement will lead to more investments from their company. Close to 70 per cent said they expect their company to increase investments by more than 50 per cent over the next 3-5 years.

In terms of geographical preference, respondents chose Malaysia (78 per cent), followed by Singapore (69 per cent) and Indonesia (67 per cent).

Of those who picked Singapore, 94 per cent of the senior executives from the 45 companies based in the Middle East said they consider the city-state a major regional R&D/innovation centre.

A further 87 per cent said Singapore is a desirable hub for regional procurement and that Singapore is an ideal place to set up their regional sales and marketing headquarters.

Finding new growth opportunities

The report identified 5 growth sectors which it expects to drive the future of the Middle East-Asean corridor. They are namely refining and petrochemicals; infrastructure and real estate; renewable energy; retail and consumer goods; and digital infrastructure and services.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, consumption of fuels and petrochemicals continues to grow strongly in Asean, driven by rising consumer and industrial demand. To address energy security concerns, the region is also now focusing on boosting local production capacity by building integrated refining and petrochemical facilities.

Similarly, rapid economic and social progress have accentuated Asean’s infrastructure needs.

“The infrastructure segment will continue to dominate the construction industry, maintaining a 46 per cent share in sector GVA (gross value added) by 2025, followed by commercial real estate (32 per cent) and residential real estate (22 per cent),” said the report.

“In particular, demand for healthcare and transport infrastructure as well as logistics and industrial real estate are expected to drive growth, which is creating new investment and business opportunities for Middle East companies.”

Separately, demand for digital solutions and enabling digital infrastructure is expected to see significant growth. Indeed, the region’s flourishing digital start-ups are increasingly attracting capital from leading investment firms globally, including many from the Middle East.

In terms of more nascent sectors, Asean nations are increasingly prioritising solar and wind solutions to meet their future energy requirements. Retail and consumer goods sector in Asean is also expected to regain momentum in the years ahead, led by an expected surge in consumer spending.

 

 

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