After two years of growth, global emissions of CO2 were unchanged at 33 gigatonnes in 2019, even though the world economy expanded by 2.9%, says the International Energy Agency.
Despite expectations to the contrary, energy-related emissions stopped growing last year and, according to the IEA, this was largely due a reduction in emissions from electricity generation in advanced economies (as a result of the contribution from renewable sources), fuel switching from coal to natural gas, and higher nuclear power generation.
Commenting on the statistics, the IEA’s Executive Director Dr Fatih Birol said: ‘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.
‘We have the energy technologies to do this, and we have to make use of them all. The IEA is building a grand coalition focused on reducing emissions – encompassing governments, companies, investors and everyone with a genuine commitment to tackling our climate challenge.’
The IEA notes that the United States recorded the largest emissions decline on a country basis, with a fall of 140 million tonnes, or 2.9%. Emissions in the European Union fell by 160 million tonnes, or 5%, in 2019 driven by reductions in the power sector.
Natural gas produced more electricity than coal for the first time ever, while wind-powered electricity nearly caught up with 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 in the rest of the world grew by close to 400 million tonnes in 2019, with almost 80% of the increase coming from countries in Asia where coal-fired power generation continued to rise.
‘This welcome halt in emissions growth is grounds for optimism that we can tackle the climate challenge this decade,’ said Dr Birol.
‘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 IEA will be holding a Clean Energy Transitions Summit in Paris on 9 July, bringing together government ministers, CEOs, investors and stakeholders with the aim of accelerating the pace of change ‘through ambitious and real-world solutions’.