report 2023

Highlights: Emissions Gap report 2023

A calling for all nations to accelerate economy-wide, low-carbon development transformations.

Global GHG emissions reached a record high of 57.4 GtCO2e in 2022, growing by 1.2 per cent (0.6 GtCO2e) from the previous year. Fossil CO2 emissions account for approximately two thirds of current GHG emissions using 100-year global warming potentials. According to multiple datasets, fossil CO2 emissions grew between 0.8–1.5 per cent in 2022 and were the main contributor to the overall increase in GHG emissions (Friedlingstein et al. 2022; Energy Institute 2023; International Energy Agency 2023; Liu et al. 2023).

Potential and risks of Carbon Dioxide Removal methods.

As low-carbon technology costs have fallen, wind and solar now offer the lowest-cost means of generating
electricity in most of the world (UNEP 2019). The fall in the cost of renewables generally means that the “transition fuel” argument for higher-emissions and higher-cost gas is becoming increasingly invalid.

The cooking transition is a good example of how energy transitions are development-driven. Driven by health
objectives and national context, electric or biogas stoves offer the most attractive long-term pathways for the sector, effectively leading to decarbonizing cooking and heating (Pachauri et al. 2021). Driven by this logic, about 600 million people have transitioned from solid fuel to liquid petroleum gas and electric stoves since 2012, resulting not only in mitigation but in fewer premature deaths and diseases among women and children (World Health Organization [WHO] 2014; WHO 2022) and easing the burden on women in carrying out their productive activities (Maji et al. 2021). However, the transition is yet incomplete; close to 2.4 billion people continue to use solid fuels.

The overarching economic context in low-income countries and some lower middle-income countries, is low human development and high levels of debt. With underdeveloped power sectors and industry, clean energy access for cooking and electricity to reduce traditional biomass dependence is a priority (Chen et al. 2022). However, financing energy access expansion has been a challenge.

Many low-income countries have depleted public savings either to counter the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, to cope with volatile commodity prices or to service external debt. In 2021, Governments in sub-Saharan Africa spent 16.5 per cent of their revenues servicing external debt, up from less than 5 per cent in 2010 (World Bank, Office of the Chief Economist for the Africa Region 2023). Today, 60 per cent of low-income countries are in or at high risk of debt distress, up from 49 per cent in 2019 (World Bank 2022).

Some low-income countries and a few middle-income countries already do or plan to rely on fossil fuel exports,
and could benefit from economic diversification. These countries face common risks, such as fuel price volatility and locking into future stranded assets. For example, a 50 per cent decline in oil prices during the pandemic contracted revenues and depleted foreign currency reserves in oil exporting countries (Akinola et al. 2022; Gerval and Hansen 2022). These circumstances pose a considerable threat to countries such as Angola and South Sudan, where energy accounts for up to 90 per cent share of their export earnings (International Monetary Fund [IMF] 2022; IMF 2023).

Most middle-income countries, in contrast, typically have larger urban centres, more developed energy infrastructure, and better access to capital. Those that are major coal producers, such as China, India and South Africa, face the risk of stranded assets, large-scale unemployment and energy insecurity if coal is rapidly phased down.

In the food sector, energy investments at scale are essential to support expected growth in food production
of 70 per cent by 2050 to meet the needs of a growing population, increased urbanization, and dietary changes (International Renewable Energy Agency [IRENA] and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations [FAO] 2021). For example, improved access to modern energy for cooling and mechanical power in the agrifood supply chain can reduce waste in storage and increase productivity in agroprocessing. Policies that support diets with healthy coarse grains (Davis et al. 2019) and less meat (Willet et al. 2019) can have nutritional, environmental and economic benefits.

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