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Emissions set to rise to record levels as clean energy spending falls short, IEA warns

July 20, 2021, 9:43 AM UTC

Global CO2 emissions are on track to reach fresh records by 2023—and to keep rising—as governments’ financial commitments to clean energy fall far short of what’s needed, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned on Tuesday.

Only 2% of government spending plans worldwide dedicated to building back economies after the COVID-19 pandemic has been earmarked for the clean energy transition, the agency said.

“Since the COVID-19 crisis erupted, many governments may have talked about the importance of building back better for a cleaner future, but many of them are yet to put their money where their mouth is,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director. “Despite increased climate ambitions, the amount of economic recovery funds being spent on clean energy is just a small sliver of the total.”

The IEA had previously warned that global CO2 emissions would jump by 5% this year alone, as economies recover. Much of that jump will be driven by a resurgence in coal demand in Asia, contributing to the largest single-year jump since the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis.

Tuesday’s findings are derived from the IEA’s Sustainable Recovery Tracker analysis, which follows how economies are incorporating the energy transition into their recovery packages. Last year, the IEA said that $1 trillion of spending worldwide should be allocated for clean energy. Current figures suggest that by 2023, funding would reach only about 35% of that recommended total, or about $350 billion a year, the agency said.

There are also sharp differences between wealthier countries and emerging and developing economies, the agency pointed out. In wealthier countries investment levels are reaching 60% of the IEA target, whereas in less wealthy nations—which have far more fiscal constraints—that figure is about 20%.

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