Global energy-related carbon emissions flattened out in 2019

James Marshall
February 13, 2020

Global carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector plateaued in 2019, defying widespread expectations that they would continue to rise, according to a February 11 report by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The International Energy Agency said emissions of the main man-made greenhouse gas stayed at 33 gigatons in 2019, even as the world economy grew by 2.9 percent.

The global energy agency put the halt in carbon dioxide growth down to declining emissions from power generation in advanced economies such as the European Union and the U.S., thanks in large part to the expanding role of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. Slower economic growth in many emerging markets also likely hit demand growth.

"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", said Birol.

He emphasized that the initiative would make coal plants smaller and more efficient, and also look for alternative uses for the fossil fuel which was once a livelihood to millions of families throughout coal country, but is now becoming a much smaller part of the USA energy sector.

The US reduced emissions by 2.9%, led by a 15% drop in coal power as cheap natural gas eroded its market share and milder weather subdued overall electricity demand.

Canada's carbon emissions were not available in the press release.

By contrast, emissions in the rest of the world rose by nearly 400 million tons past year, led by higher coal use in Asia despite slowing growth in major emitters China and India.

A significant decrease in emissions in advanced economies in 2019 offset continued growth elsewhere. The Asian economies can do the same, with a little help from Canada's vast natural gas reserves - if the government, Indigenous groups and the industry can find a way.

Late previous year, worldwide climate experts warned that global temperatures could rise sharply this century with "wide-ranging and destructive" consequences after greenhouse gas emissions hit record levels in 2018.

An earlier 2019 report from the Global Carbon Project determined that fossil-fuel emissions ticked up about 0.6% a year ago, though the full range of estimates allowed for a slight dip.

The data lays bare the rapidly declining importance of coal power in advanced economies, where the use of the carbon-intensive fossil fuel fell nearly 15 per cent a year ago.

"This welcome halt in emissions growth is grounds for optimism that we can tackle the climate challenge this decade", said Dr. Birol. "It is evidence that clean energy transitions are underway-and it's also a signal that we have the opportunity to meaningfully move the needle on emissions through more ambitious policies and investments".

One of the most comprehensive scientific studies on carbon emissions had predicted a total of almost 37 gigatons of human-made greenhouse gas emissions during 2019.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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