Glasgow (AFP) -
Global CO2 emissions are set to rebound to pre-pandemic levels next year, according to an assessment published Thursday ahead of a landmark agreement by leading economies to end direct finance for overseas fossil fuel projects by 2022.
The grim emissions assessment was billed as a 'reality check' for nations gathered at the COP26 summit in Glasgow, seen as a last chance to halt catastrophic climate change.
Moderate progress this week was checked by the release of the Global Carbon Project's annual report, which showed that emissions from oil, gas, and coal will rise in 2021 by more than they dropped during the pandemic.
It said C02 emissions could eclipse the 40-billion tonne record set in 2019, which some have predicted -- and many hoped -- would be a peak.
China alone will account for 31 percent of global emissions this year as it seeks to power its economy past Covid-19, the report said.
'This report is a reality check,' co-author Corrine Le Quere, a professor of climate change science at Britain's University of East Anglia, told AFP.
'It shows what's happening in the real world while we are here in Glasgow talking about tackling climate change.'
- 'Right side of history' -
The report came ahead of a pledge by 19 countries, including major funders the United States and Canada, to 'end new direct public support for the international unabated fossil fuel energy sector by the end of 2022'.
Unabated fossil fuel projects are those that do not deploy technology to absorb the carbon pollution they produce.
Analysts said the decision could see more than $15 billion annually channelled away from coal, oil and gas and into green energy instead.
But in a setback to the pledge, China, South Korea and Japan -- all major overseas fossil fuel funders -- did not sign on.
Still, it was seen as a boost to the COP26 summit, which organisers say is crucial to keeping the goal of the Paris climate deal to limit temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels within reach.
Earlier this week more than 100 countries agreed to slash their emissions of methane -- a potent greenhouse gas -- by at least 30 percent this decade.
However, China and India -- the first and fourth largest emitters, respectively -- have not signed up to either pledge.
G20 nations last month agreed to end financial support for new unabated coal plants abroad, but Thursday's commitment is the first of its kind to include oil and gas projects.
'We must put public finance on the right side of history,' Britain's business minister Greg Hands said as he announced the UK-led initiative.
'Ending international funding for all unabated fossil fuels is the next critical frontier we must deliver on if we are to keep 1.5C within reach,' he said.
- 'Shut off the spigot' -
The International Energy Agency says that to keep 1.5C in play there must be no new fossil fuel projects -- domestic or overseas -- from today.
Recent research by Oil Change International showed that between 2018 and 2020, the G20 funded overseas fossil fuel projects to the tune of $188 billion, mainly through multilateral development banks.
'Last year at this time I would not have thought we would see countries commit to ending billions of dollars in support for international fossil fuel projects,' said Kate DeAngelis, international finance program manager at Friends of the Earth US.
'While this is welcome progress, countries, especially the US, must hold firm to these commitments, shutting off the spigot to fossil fuel companies.'
Thousands of delegates from nearly 200 nations are in Glasgow to make progress on the Paris Agreement goals.
They face painstaking negotiations over emissions reductions, providing financial support for climate vulnerable nations, and finalising rules over carbon markets and a unified 'stocktake' of national plans.