Future Earth
Global Carbon Project (GCP) Home
Index | Presentation | Publications | Press & News Media | Data | Infographics | Images | Visualisations

Global Carbon Budget
Summary Highlights

industrial chimneys

Fossil CO2 emissions

Global fossil CO2 emissions are expected to decline approximately 2.4 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2020 (-7%), a record drop. The decrease in emissions, caused by COVID-19 confinement measures in place, brings global fossil CO2 emissions to 34 billion tonnes of CO2. Significant previous decreases were 0.5 (1981, 2009), 0.7 (1992), and 0.9 (1945) billion tonnes of CO2.

Emissions in 2019 were only 0.1% above emissions in 2018, at 36.4 billion tonnes of CO2 which already shows a slowdown in emissions before the COVID-19 pandemic.

world showing Asia

Regional fossil fuel emissions

Emissions for the EU27 are projected to decline by 11% by end of 2020 and for the USA by 12%. These reductions were superposed on prior reductions in emissions coming from the coal sector.

Emissions for India are expected to decline by 9% and those from China by 1.7%, both were previously increasing trends. For the rest of the world, the effect of COVID-19 restrictions on emissions also occurred on top of rising emissions.

logged forest

Emissions from land use change

Emissions from land-use changes in 2020 were below 2019 levels and similar to the previous decade at about 6 billion tonnes of CO2. This amount is made up of 16 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions, primarily from deforestation, and just under 11 billion tonnes of CO2 removals, primarily from the vegetation regrowth due to from abandonment of agricultural lands. Land-use change emissions continue to rise predominantly from tropical regions, with substantial contributions from all continents (Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia).

Total CO2 emissions from human activities (from fossil CO2 and land-use change) are set to be around 40 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2020, compared to 43 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2019.

ocean waves

CO2 removals by natural sinks

The land and ocean CO2 sinks combined continued to take up over half of the CO2 emitted to the atmosphere (54% for the year 2020). For the 2010-2019 decade, the ocean absorbed 9.2 GtCO2 per year and the land ecosystems absorbed 12.5 GtCO2 per year. The uptake of CO2 by the ocean causes ocean acidification. The natural land CO2 sink varies by 3 billion tonnes of CO2 on average year to year in response to climate variability.

Sun, Sky and clouds

Atmospheric CO2

Atmospheric CO2 concentration is projected to increase by 2.5 ppm in 2020 to reach 412 ppm averaged over the year. Atmospheric CO2 concentrations in 2020 are 48% above pre-industrial levels, 16% above the 1990 levels, and 3% above the 2015 levels. The expected growth rate in atmospheric CO2 concentration in 2020 (2.5 ppm) is near the 2019 growth rate, despite slightly lower anthropogenic emissions. Year-to-year variations in the natural land sink can be very large, causing fluctuations in atmospheric CO2 of the order of 0.5 ppm, with regular excursions above 1 ppm associated with El Niņo natural climate fluctuations. Emissions from wildfires also contribute to this variability.


Progress since the Paris Agreement

Five years since the adoption of the Paris Agreement, growth in global fossil CO2 emissions have begun to falter. For the decade prior to 2020 (2010-2019), fossil CO2 emissions were decreasing significantly in 24 countries with growing economies.

The rebound in emissions following previous crises suggest the long-term trend in global fossil emissions will be influenced by actions to stimulate the global economy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is too early to infer the level of the rebound in emissions during 2021 and beyond.