Emissions down, economy up

7th April 2016

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Bernard Harris

Data from the International Energy Agency has revealed that energy-related emissions remained flat in 2015 for the second consecutive year.

In a report, the agency said 32.1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide were emitted last year, much the same as in 2014. With the global economy growing by more than 3% in 2015, the figures are further evidence, said the agency, that the link between economic and emissions growth was weakening.

The Paris-based body has been providing information on carbon emissions for more than 40 years and said there had been only four previous occasions when emissions had stood still or fell compared with the previous year, with three of those – the early 1980s, 1992 and 2009 – were associated with global economic weakness. By contrast, the recent stall in emissions comes amid global economic expansion.

‘The new figures confirm last year’s surprising but welcome news: we now have seen two straight years of greenhouse-gas emissions decoupling from economic growth,’ said Fatih Birol, executive director at the agency (pictured). Its preliminary 2015 data confirmed that electricity generated by renewable technologies played a critical role in keeping emissions stable, accounting for around 90% of new production last year.

The figures came as the UK government pledged to set a legally binding zero-emissions target. In a parliamentary debate on the energy bill and in response to a call by ex-Labour leader Ed Miliband for a clause to be inserted committing the UK to meet the zero-emissions ambition set out in the Paris climate agreement, energy minister Andrea Leadsom told MPs: ‘The government believes that we will need to take the step of enshrining the Paris goal for net zero emissions in UK law. The question is not whether but how we do it and there are an important set of questions to be answered before we do.’

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