Global CO2 emissions flatline

11th February 2020


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Despite widespread expectations of another increase, global energy-related CO2 emissions stopped growing in 2019, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has revealed today.

The IEA's latest figures show that, following two years of growth, global emissions were unchanged at 33 gigatonnes in 2019, even though the world economy expanded by 2.9%.

The researchers put this down to a growing switch from coal to natural gas for fuel, higher nuclear power generation and greater usage of renewable sources for electricity.

“We now need to work hard to make sure that 2019 is remembered as a definitive peak in global emissions, not just another pause in growth,“ said IEA executive director Dr Fatih Birol.

“We have the energy and technologies to do this, and we have to make use of them all. This welcome halt in emissions growth is grounds for optimism that we can tackle the climate challenge this decade.“

The figures also show that a decrease in emissions in advanced economies last year offset continued growth elsewhere.

The US recorded the largest emissions decline on a country basis, with a fall of 140 million tonnes, or 2.9%. US emissions are now down by almost one gigatonne from their peak in 2000.

EU emissions fell by 160 million tonnes, or 5%, with natural gas producing more electricity than coal for the first time ever, and wind-powered electricity nearly matching coal-fired electricity.

Japan's emissions fell by 45 million tonnes, or around 4% – the fastest pace of decline since 2009 – as output from recently restarted nuclear reactors increased.

Emissions from the rest of the world grew by close to 400 million tonnes, with almost 80% of the increase coming from countries in Asia where coal-fired power generation continued to rise.

Across advanced economies, emissions from the power sector declined to levels last seen in the late 1980s when electricity demand was one-third lower than today, while coal-fired power generation fell by nearly 15%.

“It is evidence that clean energy transitions are underway,“ Dr Birol continued. “It's also a signal that we have the opportunity to meaningfully move the needle on emissions through more ambitious policies and investments.“

Image credit: ©iStock

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