November 2019, Vol. 246, No. 11

CO2 Pipelines

Energy-Related CO2 Emissions to Increase Through 2050

By U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)

The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from energy-related sources will continue to grow in the coming decades. 

However, future growth in energy-related CO2 emissions is not evenly distributed across the world: Relatively developed economies collectively are expected to show no emissions growth, meaning all of the future growth in energy-related CO2 emissions is among the group of countries outside the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

EIA’s “International Energy Outlook 2019”  projects that global energy-related CO2 emissions will grow 0.6% per year from 2018 to 2050 in its reference case. 

Countries outside of the OECD collectively have more population, a larger gross domestic product, more energy consumption, and higher energy-related CO2 emissions compared with aggregated values from OECD countries. In the outlook, growth rates for these data series are also higher for non-OECD countries than for OECD countries.

As non-OECD countries continue to grow, so does their demand for air- conditioning, electronics, personal vehicles, and other energy services. These countries also have relatively energy-intensive industries, primarily because energy-intensive industrial processes often shift to non-OECD countries. 

Energy consumption in non-OECD countries increases by 1.6% per year from 2018 to 2050, and energy-related CO2 emissions increase by 1% per year.

EIA projects coal-related CO2 emissions in non-OECD countries, especially China, will grow at the slowest rate among fossil fuels as natural gas replaces coal in power generation and in industrial applications. 

China emits the most energy-related CO2 emissions in the world, and EIA projects that it will remain in that position through 2050. Although India’s coal-related CO2 emissions increased 2.8% annually from 2018 to 2050 – the highest among the eight countries in EIA’s international outlook – China remains the single largest emitter of coal-related CO2 emissions in the world. 


By comparison, OECD economies are relatively mature, so many energy services such as air conditioning, electronics, and personal transportation are fairly saturated. Population and economic growth is relatively low compared with non-OECD countries, and technology improvements largely offset increases in energy demand in buildings and vehicles.

OECD economic activity continues to become less energy intensive as these economies shift from energy-intensive manufacturing to less energy-intensive manufacturing and commercial services. 

EIA projects that energy-related CO2 emissions from OECD countries will decrease slightly (-0.2%) from 2018 to 2050 in the IEO2019 Reference case. OECD CO2 emissions from petroleum liquids and coal consumption decline, but emissions from natural gas consumption increase.

EIA expects the United States to remain the largest emitter of energy-related CO2 emissions among OECD members and the largest emitter of natural gas-related emissions among all countries, regardless of OECD membership, through 2050.

Petroleum liquids-related CO2 emissions from the United States and China the top two petroleum liquids-related CO2 emitters – are relatively similar throughout the projection period. 

On a per capita basis, OECD countries emit far more energy-related CO2 than non-OECD countries: about 9.5 metric tons per person in OECD countries in 2018 compared with 3.6 metric tons per person in non-OECD countries. The gap between those groups is decreasing; by 2050, OECD countries will emit 8.2 metric tons per person compared with 3.8 metric tons per person in non-OECD countries.

Global energy intensities and carbon intensities also continue to decline. By 2032, non-OECD countries are expected to become less energy intensive than OECD countries, meaning they use less energy to generate economic activity.

However, according to the EIA non-OECD countries are expected to remain more carbon intensive than OECD countries through 2050, meaning they generate more CO2 emissions per unit of energy consumed. Differences in energy and carbon intensities reflect the different mix of fuels used to provide energy in the two groups of countries.   


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