Despite expectations of another increase, global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming stopped growing in 2019, a new report by the International Energy Agency has said. According to the report, after two years of growth, global emissions were unchanged at 33 gigatonnes in 2019 even as the world economy expanded by 2.9 per cent.
The IEA said the development was primarily due to declining emissions from electricity generation in advanced economies, and the expanding role of renewable sources mainly wind and solar, fuel switching from coal to natural gas, and higher nuclear power generation.
Other factors, the IEA said, included milder weather in several countries, and slower economic growth in some emerging markets. The Executive Director of IEA, 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 report said a significant decrease in emissions in advanced economies in 2019 offset continued growth elsewhere, adding that the United States recorded the largest emissions decline on a country basis, with a fall of 140 million tonnes or 2.9 per cent. “US emissions are now down by almost one gigatonne from their peak in 2000. Emissions in the European Union fell by 160 million tonnes, or five per cent in 2019 driven by reductions in the power sector,” the report noted.
It added that natural gas produced more electricity than coal for the first time ever while wind-powered electricity nearly caught up with coal-fired electricity.The report stated that Japan’s emissions fell by 45 million tonnes, or around four per cent, the fastest pace of decline since 2009, as output from recently restarted nuclear reactors increased.
It explained that emissions in the rest of the world grew by close to 400 million tonnes in 2019, with almost 80 per cent of the increase coming from countries in Asia where coal-fired power generation continued to rise. The report read in part, “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. “Coal-fired power generation in advanced economies declined by nearly 15 per cent as a result of growth in renewables, coal-to-gas switching, a rise in nuclear power and weaker electricity demand.”
Birol said the halt in emissions growth should be grounds for optimism that the world could tackle the climate challenge this decade. He said, “it is evident that clean energy transitions are underway and it is also a signal that we have the opportunity to meaningfully move the needle on emissions through more ambitious policies and investments.”