Global carbon emissions from energy flatlined in 2019, IEA claims

Following two consecutive years of increases and despite forecasts of a further rise, global carbon dioxide emissions from energy stopped growing in 2019, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has said.

Pictured: The UK's Cottam Coal power plant, which closed during the timeframe assessed by the IEA. 

Pictured: The UK's Cottam Coal power plant, which closed during the timeframe assessed by the IEA. 

IEA data released on Tuesday (11 February) reveals that global CO2 emissions in 2019 stood at 33 gigatonnes, the same amount as in 2018.

The data shows that decarbonisation actions in developed nations were significant enough to result in an overall flatlining, despite a 2.9% expansion of the world economy and a slight increase in emissions from developing nations between 2018 and 2019. The majority of this increase, the IEA notes, came from Asian nations, as a result of coal-fired power generation.  

Despite the continued implementation of President Trump’s policy agenda, which has been repeatedly and widely criticised by green groups across the world, the US recorded the largest emissions decline on a country basis between 2018 and 2019. US-related emissions dropped by 2.9% or 140 million tonnes within this period.

The IEA also highlighted a 160-million-tonne year-on-year reduction in emissions from across the EU, equivalent to 5%. It attributes this trend to the bloc’s continued shift away from coal-fired power generation towards natural gas and, more recently, wind. Its data shows that coal-fired power generation in developed economies collectively declined by around 15% within the 12-month timeframe.

“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,” the IEA’s executive director Dr Fatih Birol said.

“We have the energy technologies to do this, and we have to make use of them all.”

Grand coalitions and other plans

The publication of the data comes shortly after the IEA published its first communique in a decade.

Following criticisms of the methodology behind the IEA’s World Energy Outlook – and the forecast’s implications for clean energy policy and industry – the communique commits the IEA to playing a “central role” in bridging the gaps between policy intentions and real-world impact, both through and beyond its work on the Outlook.

Building on the communique, the IEA this week announced that its 2020 World Energy Outlook will be published in June. The Agency said in a statement that the report will “map out how to cut global energy-related carbon emissions by one-third by 2030 and put the world on track for longer-term climate goals.”

Aside from the Outlook, the IEA has said it is keen to create a “grand coalition” of governments, companies and investors seeking to align with the Paris Agreement. A step towards the creation of the coalition is the Agency’s Clean Energy Summit, which will take place in Paris on 9 July.

Sarah George



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