Oct. 13 (UPI) -- While carbon emissions worldwide have fallen dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, energy experts said in an influential report Tuesday that more global efforts are needed to prevent a return to the higher readings seen before the health crisis.
The International Energy Agency said in its World Energy Outlook 2020 it expects global energy demand to decline by 5% for the year, and fall a record 7% for energy-related emissions.
Under present scenarios, global demand is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels by early 2023 but that could be delayed until 2025 if the crisis endures, the IEA said.
According to one model, carbon emissions could surge next year, surpass 2019 levels by 2027 and rise to 36 gigatons by 2030.
Since the start of the pandemic, global emissions have declined sharply due to a major decrease in driving and air travel worldwide -- proof, many environmentalists say, that the world is capable of controlling the climate change crisis.
Carbon emissions from energy use are expected to fall to 33.4 gigatons for 2020, the lowest level since 2011 and the largest year-to-year decline since 1900 when record-keeping began, the IEA said.
If the world wants to continue affecting climate change for the better, the outlook says, it needs to take more advantage of the present downturn before carbon emissions return to 2019 levels. The outlook called the next decade "pivotal."
"It has been a tumultuous year for the global energy system. The COVID-19 crisis has caused more disruption than any other event in recent history, leaving scars that will last for years to come. But whether this upheaval ultimately helps or hinders efforts to accelerate clean energy transitions and reach international energy and climate goals will depend on how governments respond to today's challenges," it states.
"A surge in well-designed energy policies is needed to put the world on track for a resilient energy system that can meet climate goals."
"The economic downturn has temporarily suppressed emissions, but low economic growth is not a low-emissions strategy -- it is a strategy that would only serve to further impoverish the world's most vulnerable populations."
Birol called for quicker structural changes in the way energy is produced and consumed in the form of renewable sources to break the expected upward trend of carbon emissions.
"Governments have the capacity and the responsibility to take decisive actions to accelerate clean energy transitions and put the world on a path to reaching our climate goals, including net-zero emissions," he said.
The report said the pandemic has helped accelerate some renewable alternatives, such as solar power. The IEA report projects that the use of solar power will increase by an average of 13% per year between now and 2030.
"Solar is the new king of global electricity markets," Birol said.