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Global carbon dioxide emissions flatlined in 2019

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World Coal,

Despite widespread expectations of another increase, global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions stopped growing in 2019, according to data recently released by the IEA.

After 2 years of growth, global emissions were unchanged at 33 Gt in 2019, even as the world economy expanded by 2.9%. This was primarily due to declining emissions from electricity generation in advanced economies, thanks to the expanding role of renewable sources (mainly wind and solar), fuel switching from coal to natural gas, and higher nuclear power generation. Other factors included milder weather in several countries, and slower economic growth in some emerging markets.

Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director, said: “The world now needs to work hard to make sure that 2019 is remembered as a definitive peak in global emissions, not just another pause in growth […] The energy technologies to do this are there, they just have to be made use. The IEA is building a grand coalition focused on reducing emissions – encompassing governments, companies, investors and everyone with a genuine commitment to tackling the climate challenge.”

A significant decrease in emissions in advanced economies in 2019 offset continued growth elsewhere. The US recorded the largest emissions decline on a country basis, with a fall of 140 million t, or 2.9%. US emissions are now down by almost 1 Gt from its peak in 2000. Emissions in the EU fell by 160 million t, or 5%, in 2019, driven by reductions in the power sector. Natural gas produced more electricity than coal for the first time ever, while wind-powered electricity nearly caught up with coal-fired electricity. Japan’s emissions fell by 45 million t, or approximately 4%, the fastest pace of decline since 2009, as output from recently restarted nuclear reactors increased. Emissions in the rest of the world grew by close to 400 million t in 2019, with almost 80% of the increase coming from countries in Asia where coal-fired power generation continued to rise.

Across advanced economies, emissions from the power sector declined to levels that were 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% as a result of growth in renewables, coal-to-gas switching, a rise in nuclear power and weaker electricity demand.

Birol added: “This welcome halt in emissions growth is grounds for optimism that the climate challenge can be tackled this decade […] It is evidence that clean energy transitions are underway – and it is also a signal that there is the opportunity to meaningfully move the needle on emissions through more ambitious policies and investments.”

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