'Grounds for optimism': Global carbon emissions level out despite growing economy
The U.S. had the single national sharpest decline in emissions in 2019.
LONDON -- Global carbon dioxide emissions stopped growing last year, despite the global economy experiencing a marked increase in size, according to data published today.
Following two years of increasing emissions, CO2 emissions flattened to 33 gigatons thanks to the growing role of renewable resources in electricity generation in advanced economies in 2019, according to the International Atomic Agency (IEA). The global economy, meanwhile, expanded by 2.9%, the IEA said.
The flatlining of emissions can be largely explained by the increased use of sustainable energy resources in the advanced economies of Europe and the U.S., which offset an increase in emissions in the rest of the world.
Despite the Trump administration withdrawing the United States from the United Nations' Paris climate accord, the international commitment to curb emissions and prevent global warming, the U.S. had the largest decline in CO2 emissions in a single country, falling 140 million tons, or 2.9%. The demand for electricity in the U.S. declined due to a milder summer and warmer winter than previous years, the report said.
Emissions in the European Union fell by 160 million tons, which amounts to 5%.
In Japan, CO2 emissions fell by 45 million tons, or 4%, from the previous year, as the country moved to restart its nuclear reactors.
Despite the general decline in carbon emissions in advanced economies in Europe and the U.S., however, carbon emissions grew by nearly 400 million tons in the rest of the world in 2019, with nearly 80% of the increase coming from Asia, where countries increased their use of coal.
“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,” Dr. Fatih Birol, the Executive Director of the IEA, said in a statement. “We have the energy technologies to do this, and we have to make use of them all. The IEA is building a grand coalition focused on reducing emissions – encompassing governments, companies, investors and everyone with a genuine commitment to tackling our climate challenge.”
The IEA will publish a report in June to outline their plans on how global carbon emissions can be cut by a third by 2025, and the current data proved that it was possible to stay on track with longer-term climate related goals.
“This welcome halt in emissions growth is grounds for optimism that we can tackle the climate challenge this decade,” Birol said. “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.”
The new report comes after after U.S. government data found that the last decade was the warmest in human history, with 2019 the 43rd year in a row that global temperatures were above the historical average.