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Global Carbon Budget
Summary Highlights

industrial chimneys

Fossil CO2 emissions

Global fossil CO2 emissions in 2021 are set to rebound close to their pre-COVID levels after an unprecedented drop in 2020. Emissions from coal and gas use are set to grow more in 2021 than they fell in 2020, but emissions from oil use remain below 2019 levels.

The record decrease in 2020 emissions was 1.9 billion tonnes of CO2 (GtCO2) [-5.4%], from 36.7 GtCO2 in 2019 to 34.8 GtCO2 in 2020. Emissions are projected to grow 4.9% (4.1% to 5.7%) in 2021, to 36.4 GtCO2. Global emissions in 2021 remain about 0.8% below their level in 2019. The 2021 growth of 1.6 GtCO2 is similar to the growth observed in 2010 following the global financial crisis of 2008-2009 (1.7 GtCO2; 5.5% above 2009 levels).

world showing Asia

Regional fossil fuel emissions

For major emitters, fossil CO2 emissions in 2021 appear to return to pre-COVID trends with a decreasing trend in CO2 emissions for the USA and European Union (EU27) and an increasing trend in CO2 emissions for India. For China, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked further growth in CO2 emissions, pushed by the power and industry sectors.

Emissions from China have recovered faster than other countries. CO2 emissions from China in 2021 are projected to be 5.5% above 2019 levels, reaching 11.1 billion tonnes. India's CO2 emissions are projected to grow even faster than China's this year at 12.6%, after a 7.3% fall last year. Emissions from both the US and European Union are projected to rise 7.6% this year. US and EU, respectively, accounted for 14% and 7% of global emissions in 2020. Emissions in the rest of the world (including all international transport, particularly aviation) are projected to rise 2.9% this year, but remain 4.2% below 2019 levels. Together, these countries represent 59% of global emissions.

logged forest

Emissions from land use change

Global gross emissions due to land-use change remain high at 14.1 GtCO2 over the past decade. Global gross removals (eg, forest regrowth) have increased in the last two decades to 9.9 GtCO2.

The revised estimates of net land-use change emissions (the difference between gross emissions and gross removals) suggest a decline in emissions from 4.5 GtCO2 per year in the early 2000s (2000-2009) to 3.2 GtCO2 in 2020, with a projection of 2.9 GtCO2 in 2021. This trend remains to be confirmed.

ocean waves

CO2 removals by land and ocean natural sinks

The land and ocean CO2 sinks combined continued to take up around half (53% over the past decade) of the CO2 emitted to the atmosphere.

The ocean CO2 sink was 10.3 GtCO2 per year (26% of total CO2 emissions) during the decade 2011-2020 with a preliminary 2021 estimate of around 10.6 GtCO2. The natural land CO2 sink continued to increase during the 2011-2020 period in response to increased atmospheric CO2, albeit with large interannual variability. The natural land CO2 sink was 11.4 GtCO2 per year on average during the 2011-2020 decade (28% of total CO2 emissions), 1.8 GtCO2 per year larger than during the previous decade (2000-2009), with a preliminary 2021 estimate of around 12.1 GtCO2 per year.

Globally during the decade 2011-2020, climate change reduced the land sink by about 15% and the ocean sink by about 5%.

Sun, Sky and clouds

Atmospheric CO2

The level of CO2 continued to increase in the atmosphere in both 2020 and 2021 following long-term trends because of continued emissions.

Atmospheric CO2 concentration increased 2.4 parts per million in 2020 and is projected to increase by 2.0 parts per million in 2021 to reach 415 parts per million averaged over the year. The atmospheric CO2 growth was 18.7 GtCO2 (2.4 ppm) on average each year during the decade 2011-2020, indicating that 47% of total CO2 emissions remained in the atmosphere. The 2020 decrease in total CO2 emissions of about 2.5 GtCO2 propagated to an atmospheric CO2 growth, reduced by 1.4 GtCO2 (0.18 ppm) relative to the 2019 growth rate. The 2021 growth rate is lower than in recent years due to La Niņa conditions in 2021, a short-term natural climatic event that brings conditions favourable to an enhanced natural land carbon sink.


Progress since the Paris Agreement

Decarbonisation of energy showed a strong and growing signal in the decade 2010-2019 at the global level, pushing CO2 emission down in the USA, EU27, and slowing their growth in China. Decarbonisation of energy was not enough to compensate for the growing energy demand still largely met by fossil energy sources in many countries, despite the high deployment rate of renewables, resulting in continued growth in global emissions albeit at a slower rate.

The rapid rebound in fossil CO2 emissions as economies recover from the COVID-19 pandemic reinforces the need for immediate action and global coherence in the world's response to climate change.