IEA.- Economic growth and CO2 emissions decouple

The growth of global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) remained flat for the second year in a row, according to analysis of preliminary data for 2015 released today by the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Global emissions of carbon dioxide stood at 32.1Bn tonnes in 2015. This means that there has not been any growth since 2013.
Energy sector is the largest man-generated greenhouse gas emissions source.

“The new figures confirm last year’s surprising but welcome news: we now have seen two straight years of greenhouse gas emissions decoupling from economic growth,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “Coming just a few months after the landmark COP21 agreement in Paris, this is yet another boost to the global fight against climate change.”

In the more than 40 years in which the IEA has been providing information on CO2 emissions, there have been only four periods in which emissions stood still or fell compared to the previous year. Three of those – the early 1980s, 1992 and 2009 – were associated with global economic weakness. But the recent stall in emissions comes amid economic expansion: according to the International Monetary Fund, global GDP grew by 3.4% in 2014 and 3.1% in 2015.

Electric power generated by renewables, critical for the decoupling

The IEA preliminary data suggest that electricity generated by renewables played a critical role in the emissions stalk.
Renewables accounted for around 90% of new electricity generation in 2015; wind alone produced more than half of new electric power generation. In parallel, the global economy continued to grow by more than 3%, offering further evidence, says IEA, that the link between economic growth and emissions growth is weakening.

China and USA reduced energy related emissions

China and the United States, both registered a decline in energy-related CO2 in 2015.
In both countries the economic restructuring towards less energy-intensive industries and the government’s efforts to decarbonise electricity generation pushed coal use down.

In China, emissions declined by 1.5%, as coal use dropped for the second year in a row.
In 2015, coal generated less than 70% of Chinese electricity, ten percentage points less than four years ago (in 2011). Over the same period low-carbon sources jumped from 19% to 28%, with hydro and wind accounting for most of the increase.

In the United States, emissions declined by 2%, as a large switch from coal to natural gas use in electricity generation was implemented.

The decline observed in the two major emitters was offset by increasing emissions in most other Asian developing economies and the Middle East, and also a moderate increase in Europe.

More details on the data and analysis will be included in a World Energy Outlook special report on energy and air quality that will be released at the end of June.

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