The International Energy Agency revealed that global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions stopped growing in 2019, following two years of growth. Global emissions were stagnant at 33 gigatonnes in 2019, despite global economic growth of 2.9%.
In its report, the IEA pointed to declining emissions from electricity generation in advanced economies, due to growing use of wind and solar power, increasing use of natural gas instead of coal, and higher nuclear power generation.
“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 Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director. “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.”
According to the report, the US recorded the largest emissions decline of any country, with a drop of 140 million tonnes, or 2.9%. Meanwhile, emissions in the European Union fell by 160 million tonnes, or 5%, in 2019. The report noted that natural gas produced more electricity than coal for the first time ever, and wind-powered electricity almost caught up to coal-fired electricity.
Emissions from the power sector dropped to level last seen in the late 1980s, when the IEA estimates that electricity demand was one-third lower than today.
“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.”