Emissions soared again in 2021 – here's the sector with the single largest gain

New York, New York - Driving in the US took a break in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and this helped briefly lower emissions. But last year, drivers took back the streets and erased most of the progress towards lowering emissions from vehicles.

More driving means more pollution from fuel, which is not great for the environment.
More driving means more pollution from fuel, which is not great for the environment.  © IMAGO / Levine-Roberts, IlluPics

Emissions from the transport sector jumped by 10.1% in 2021, according to a report by research think tank Rhodium Group. Their work shows that most of the big reduction in CO2 getting spewed into the air was swiftly reversed.

The return of many drivers to the country's roads is responsible for the jump in carbon emissions, but an even larger contribution came from the freight deliveries that kept a high stream of consumer goodies headed to people stuck in the second year of the pandemic. These emissions even surged past 2019 levels for a few months, and are now back to pre-pandemic levels.

The overall amount of carbon released by US vehicles in 2021 is still down by 5% compared to 2019, but the spike in emissions is a worrying change that moves the nation further from effective climate action.

The Rhodium Group also showed that other sectors are headed back to the same amount of CO2 released in 2019, with increases across the board in energy generation, buildings, and heavy industry.

Despite the huge uptick in emissions in 2021, the overall trend is headed downwards at a snail's pace, so swift action needs to be taken in order to give the world a chance to meet climate goals before 2030.

Cover photo: IMAGO / Levine-Roberts, IlluPics

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