Published: Fri, February 14, 2020
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Defying expectations of a rise, global carbon dioxide emissions flatlined in 2019

Defying expectations of a rise, global carbon dioxide emissions flatlined in 2019

Global energy-related emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide remained steady previous year, with declines in the advanced economies balancing out a rise in the rest of the world, latest data has shown.

Despite the continued implementation of President Trump's policy agenda, which has been repeatedly and widely criticised by green groups across the world, the USA recorded the largest emissions decline on a country basis between 2018 and 2019.

After two years of growth, global emissions were unchanged at 33 gigatonnes in 2019 even as the world economy expanded by 2.9%.

"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.

United Nations climate scientists say that global greenhouse emissions would need to fall by 7.6% every year between now and 2030 to stop temperatures rising to levels that will cause severe climate change in the coming decades. Solar and wind were also significant, as more countries showed how they switched from coal to natural gas. Major economies also experienced milder weather than during 2018, and economic growth slowed in some emerging countries like India.

The latest data prompted surprise from IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol, as well as cautious optimism that global emissions may have finally reached their peak.

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Japan's emissions fell by 45 million tonnes, or around 4%, the fastest pace of decline since 2009, as output from recently restarted nuclear reactors increased. This calls for a grand coalition that brings together all the stakeholders that have a genuine commitment to reducing emissions - governments, industry, financial institutions, global organizations and civil society.

Emissions of Carbon dioxide from the US electric power sector see the largest drop through 2025 due to coal power plant retirements and additions in renewable generation capacity. The company had previously committed to cut methane emissions from its natural gas operations by 50% between 2010 and 2030 and carbon emissions from its power generating facilities by 80% between 2005 and 2050.

Pompeo articulated that the USA would move forward with efforts to curb emissions while also growing the economy, a promise that the administration appears to have kept in 2019, with the economy growing 2.3% over the year.

Lower emissions and economic growth?

After 2031, total US energy-related Carbon dioxide emissions resume growth but remain four percent lower than 2019 levels in 2050.

The report credited "a 15% reduction in the use of coal for power generation" as a key factor in the decline of overall emissions in the country, noting that coal-fired power plants faced strong competition from natural gas-fired generation in 2019. I am confident we can use this same mindset to help solve this challenge and leave the world a better place for future generations.

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