World carbon intensity

Carbon intensity of TES is the annual mass of emitted CO₂ per unit of total energy supply, and is a measure of the carbonisation of an energy system.
There was no net-decarbonisation of the world energy system from year 2000 to the end of 2016.

All statistics shown are the most recent available as of late 2020, and the most recent year varies with dataset. The IEA’s dataset more thoroughly accounts for biofuels, but lags behind BP’s by a year.

Carbon intensity described here is that of total energy supply, which is the quantity of carbon emitted per unit of energy from all fuels, both combustible and non-combustible.

World carbon intensity had been declining since the 1960s, until year 2000, and didn’t return to this level until year 2016. Humanity made no progress to decarbonise the world energy system during this 16 year period, and the rate of decarbonisation since has been roughly the same as that during 1990-2000.

Chart 1. World carbon intensity of TES. Data: (i) Calculated using BP(2020).1 2 3 (ii) Calculated using IEA(2020).4 5
BP’s series of carbon intensity is about 10% higher than IEA’s because BP’s CO₂ emissions from fuel combustion pre-1995 are higher than IEA’s by 4 to 6%, and BP’s TES does not fully account for biofuels. Both characteristics act in the same manner, to increase values of carbon intensity using BP’s dataset relative to that using the IEA’s.
Carbon accountancy rules allow countries to tally the CO₂ emissions from combustion of solid biofuels as zero (i.e. assume that biofuels are carbon-neutral, which may not be the case6), so although the IEA series of carbon intensity does account fully for energy from biofuels in the denominator, the numerator partially excludes the associated CO₂ emissions. Inclusion of these emissions would increase annual values of carbon intensity using the IEA’s dataset.

Carbon intensity values of world economies in 2019 are shown in the upper row of charts below, in red. The dotted line is world average. Changes relative to 1999 (two decades prior) are shown in the bottom row, in blue, with the dotted line denoting no change.

Chart 2. Carbon intensity of World and American national energy systems, 2019. Data: Calculated using BP(2020).1 2
Upper row: Absolute values of carbon intensity in 2019. Dotted line indicates value of world average in 2019.
Bottom row: Change of carbon intensity since 1999. Carbon intensity of region or country in 2019, divided by the region or country’s carbon intensity in 1999. Dotted line indicates 100% and therefore no change. A value less than 100% indicates decarbonisation.
Chart 3. Carbon intensity of European national energy systems, 2019. Data: Calculated using BP(2020).1 2
Upper row: Absolute values of carbon intensity in 2019. Dotted line indicates value of world average in 2019.
Bottom row: Change of carbon intensity since 1999. Carbon intensity of country in 2019, divided by the country’s carbon intensity in 1999. Dotted line indicates 100% and therefore no change. A value less than 100% indicates decarbonisation.
Chart 4. Carbon intensity of CIS, Middle Eastern, African and Asian Pacific national energy systems, 2019. Data: Calculated using BP(2020).1 2
Upper row: Absolute values of carbon intensity in 2019. Dotted line indicates value of world average in 2019.
Bottom row: Change of carbon intensity since 1999. Carbon intensity of country in 2019, divided by the country’s carbon intensity in 1999. Dotted line indicates 100% and therefore no change. A value less than 100% indicates decarbonisation.
Footnotes
  1. https://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/energy-economics/statistical-review-of-world-energy.html()()()()
  2. BP does not fully account for biofuels, and these may not be carbon-neutral, as explained at https://www.worldenergydata.org/biofuels/()()()()
  3. Biofuels on this website are the summation of solid and liquid biofuels, and therefore Geothermal, Biofuels and Other equals the summation of BP’s data for ‘Geo, Biomass and Other’ and ‘Biofuels’.()
  4. CO₂ data: https://www.iea.org/subscribe-to-data-services/co2-emissions-statistics()
  5. Energy data: Calculated by applying the substitution method of energy equivalency to IEA(2020) https://www.iea.org/data-and-statistics/data-tables?country=WORLD as per https://www.worldenergydata.org/energy-accounting/.()
  6. https://www.worldenergydata.org/biofuels/()