Carbon emissions from energy stayed the same in 2019 despite expectations of further growth, latest International Energy Agency data indicates
Global carbon dioxide emissions look to have flatlined in 2019 despite widespread expectations of further growth, with the International Energy Agency (IEA) welcoming the the latest figures as encouraging evidence that "we can tackle the climate challenge this decade".
After two years of growth, global CO2 emissions from energy were unchanged at 33 gigatonnes last year, even as the world economy expanded by 2.9 per cent in GDP terms, data released today by the IEA indicates - defying expectations the growth trend would continue in 2019.
The global energy agency put the halt in CO2 growth down to declining emissions from power generation in advanced economies such as the EU and the US, thanks in large part to the expanding role of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. Fuel sources switching from coal to natural gas as well as rising nuclear power generation also played a key role in curbing emissions, it said.
Other factors helping to stem emissions growth last year included milder weather in several countries, as well as sluggish economic growth in some emerging markets, according to the IEA.
The latest data prompted surprise from IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol, as well as cautious optimism that global emissions may have finally reached their peak.
"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 Birol. "This welcome halt in emissions growth is grounds for optimism that we can tackle the climate challenge this decade. It is evidence that clean energy transitions are underway - and it's also a signal that we have the opportunity to meaningfully move the needle on emissions through more ambitious policies and investments."
The data lays bare the rapidly declining importance of coal power in advanced economies, where the use of the carbon-intensive fossil fuel fell almost 15 per cent last year.
That trend, alongside weaker power demand and growing low carbon power capacity, led to overall emissions from the energy sector in advanced economies falling "to levels last seen in the 1980s", helping to offset continued emissions growth elsewhere, the IEA said.
It follows UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's announcement last week that his government plans to bring forward the planned phase-out date for coal-fired power by a year to 2024, amid latest data showing UK greenhouse gas emissions fell by 2.1 per cent in 2018.
And despite the current White House administration's efforts to support its declining coal industry and cut back on climate change regulations, the IEA said the largest national decline in energy-related emissions took place in the US last year, which recorded a 2.9 per cent drop in CO2 output, amounting to 140 million tonnes saved. US energy-related emissions are now down almost one gigatonne from their peak in 2000, it added.
Meanwhile, energy emissions in the EU fell by five per cent last year - equating to almost 160 million tonnes - with natural gas generating more electricity than coal for the first time ever, just ahead of wind power generation which was almost on a par with coal.
In Japan, emissions dropped by almost 45 million tonnes, or around four per cent, representing the country's fastest pace of decline in over a decade thanks to output from recently restarted nuclear generators.
However, energy-related emissions across the rest of the world continued to grow, rising by almost 400 million tonnes in 2019, with almost 80 per cent of that increase taking place in Asia where coal-fired power generation rose yet again, according to the IEA.
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