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Fossil Fuel Use and Emissions Hit Records in 2023

In 2023, global fossil fuel consumption and energy emissions reached unprecedented levels, despite a slight decrease in fossil fuels’ share of the global energy mix compared to the previous year, according to the industry’s Statistical Review of World Energy report released on Thursday.

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The report highlighted that despite the expansion of renewable energy sources, the persistent high demand for fossil fuels poses a significant challenge to transitioning to lower-carbon energy amid escalating global temperatures, nearing the critical 1.5°C threshold.

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“We hope that this report will help governments, world leaders, and analysts confront the challenges ahead with clarity,” remarked Romain Debarre of consultancy Kearney.

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The year marked the first full period of redirected Russian energy flows away from the West following the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, and also the initial complete year without major movement restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Global primary energy consumption soared to an all-time peak of 620 Exajoules (EJ), the report noted, while emissions surpassed 40 gigatonnes of CO2 for the first time.

“Despite renewables achieving a record high share, the relentless growth in global energy demand has meant that the proportion derived from fossil fuels has remained largely unchanged,” observed Simon Virley of consultancy KPMG.

Regional analysis revealed varying trends in fossil fuel utilization. In Europe, for instance, the fossil fuel share of energy dropped below 70% for the first time since the industrial revolution.

“In advanced economies, we are witnessing signs of peak demand for fossil fuels, contrasting with developing economies in the Global South where economic progress and quality of life improvements continue to drive fossil fuel consumption,” noted Energy Institute Chief Executive Nick Wayth.

The Energy Institute, in collaboration with consultancies KPMG and Kearney, has published the annual report since taking over from BP (NYSE
) in 2023, marking a significant milestone for energy professionals globally.

According to the report, fossil fuels played a pivotal role in meeting almost all of India’s energy demand growth in 2023, while China saw a 6% increase in fossil fuel use, reaching a new high. Despite this, China led global renewable energy capacity expansions, surpassing additions from the rest of the world combined.

“The scale of China’s renewable energy additions is remarkable,” commented KPMG’s Virley during a briefing with reporters.

The report underscores the complex global energy landscape, highlighting both progress in renewable adoption and the ongoing dominance of fossil fuels in meeting global energy demands, posing critical challenges in achieving climate targets and sustainable energy transitions worldwide.

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