The pandemic resulted in the largest absolute drop in annual global energy-related C02 emissions in 2020, as economies gripped by the pandemic ground to a standstill, the IEA said. But the recovery in activity in the second half of 2020 and “a lack of clean energy policies” caused emissions to rise a further 2 percent year on year in December. “In the absence of major and immediate policy changes in the world’s largest economies, global emissions will continue to increase,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA executive director. Governments must put clean energy policies “at the heart of their [pandemic] recovery packages”, he said, or risk a “substantial rebound of emissions” in 2021.

The findings follow a warning from the UN that the latest emissions-reduction plans set out by 75 signatories to the Paris climate agreement fell “far short” of what was needed to avoid the worst effects of a warming planet.

The UN urged governments to set more ambitious goals and channel pandemic recovery funds into policies aimed at greening economies.

Total global energy-related C02 almost 2bn tonnes, at a total of about 32bn tonnes. Total greenhouse gas emissions are estimated at about 50bn tonnes. But the rise in of 2 percent in December compared with the same month in 2019 was caused by a rebound in demand for fossil fuel-powered energy in the most polluting countries, including China and India.

China was the only country to produce more annual emissions in 2020, adding a further 0.8 percent in c02 to the atmosphere than it did in 2019. That was in spite of the 12 percent reduction in the peak month of February over the previous year.