IEA: Global carbon emissions rise slowing amid clean energy surge

New research has revealed that global energy-related carbon emissions rose less sharply in 2023 than 2022, despite accelerated total energy demand growth, due to the continued expansion of solar, wind, nuclear power and electric vehicles (EVs).

IEA: Global carbon emissions rise slowing amid clean energy surge

Advanced economies witnessed a record decline in CO2 emissions due to clean energy growth.

This is according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), which has released its annual update on global energy-related CO2 emissions and introduced a new series called the Clean Energy Market Monitor, which provides insights into clean technology deployment.

According to reports, global energy-related carbon emissions rose by 410 million tonnes, or 1.1%, in 2023, reaching a record level of 37.4 billion tonnes. However, this increase was lower than the previous year’s rise of 490 million tonnes.

The IEA notes that an unprecedented shortfall in hydropower, driven by extreme droughts in key regions such as China and the US, forced countries to turn to fossil fuel alternatives, contributing to more than 40% of the emissions increase in 2023.

Despite this challenge, the report highlights that without clean energy technologies, the global rise in CO2 emissions over the past five years would have been three times larger.

IEA’s executive director Fatih Birol said: “A pandemic, an energy crisis and geopolitical instability all had the potential to derail efforts to build cleaner and more secure energy systems. Instead, we’ve seen the opposite in many economies. The clean energy transition is continuing apace and reining in emissions – even with global energy demand growing more strongly in 2023 than in 2022.”

Last year, advanced economies witnessed a record decline in energy-related CO2 emissions, even as their GDP continued to grow, according to the reports, due to accelerated deployment of renewables, coal-to-gas switching, energy efficiency enhancements and lower industrial production levels.

The report underscores the critical role of clean energy technologies in limiting the growth of fossil fuel demand. From 2019 to 2023, clean energy deployment outpaced that of fossil fuels by a factor of two, offering a pathway to accelerate the transition away from carbon-intensive energy sources in the coming decade.

Additionally, 2023 marked the first time that at least half of electricity generation in advanced economies came from low-emission sources like renewables and nuclear power.

Global support for the Global South

While clean energy deployment remains concentrated in advanced economies and China, the report emphasises the need for greater international efforts to boost investment and adoption in emerging and developing economies.

According to the IEA, the amount invested annually in clean energy in emerging and developing nations will need to more than triple to reach $2.8trn within ten years.

In China, despite significant strides in clean energy deployment, emissions surged in 2023 due to a historic dip in hydropower output and the nation’s economic reopening post-pandemic. Similarly, in India, strong GDP growth drove up emissions, exacerbated by a weaker-than-usual monsoon season affecting hydropower production.

Despite these challenges, per capita emissions in India remain below the global average, indicating room for sustainable development pathways.

Dr Birol added: “The commitments made by countries at COP28 in Dubai in December show what the world needs to do to put emissions on a downward trajectory.

“Most importantly, we need far greater efforts to enable emerging and developing economies to ramp up clean energy investment.”

Last December at COP28, more than 100 countries signed up to a commitment to keep the 1.5C pathway of the Paris Agreement alive by trebling global renewable capacity and doubling annual energy efficiency improvement rates by 2030.

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