Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the energy sector in 2014 were at the same level as in 2013, according to preliminary figures from the International Energy Agency (IEA). It suggests that policy responses, rather than economic factors, led to the zero growth in emissions.
The IEA estimates that global CO2 emissions totalled 32.3 billion tonnes in 2014, unchanged from the previous year.
"For the first time, greenhouse gas emissions are decoupling from economic growth."
IEA chief economist
The organization attributes the halt in emissions growth "to changing patterns of energy consumption in China and OECD countries". It said that China generated a greater proportion of its electricity last year from clean energy sources, rather than through burning coal. Greater energy efficiency and more renewable energy also reduced CO2 emissions from energy production in OECD economies, IEA added.
The halt in CO2 emissions in 2014 marks the first time in 40 years that a stall or reduction in emissions was not tied to an economic downturn. There have been three other times when CO2 emissions stood still or declined (in the early 1980s, 1992 and 2009). However, these were all linked to a weak global economy. The global economy expanded by 3% last year, according to the IEA.
The IEA suggests, "Efforts to mitigate climate change may be having a more pronounced effect on emissions than had previously been thought."
IEA chief economist Fatih Birol said, "This is both a very welcome surprise and a significant one. It provides much-needed momentum to negotiators preparing to forge a global climate deal in Paris in December: for the first time, greenhouse gas emissions are decoupling from economic growth."
He added, "This gives me even more hope that humankind will be able to work together to combat climate change, the most important threat facing us today."
IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven added: "The latest data on emissions are indeed encouraging, but this is no time for complacency - and certainly not the time to use this positive news as an excuse to stall further action."
The IEA will include more details of the data and analysis in a special report on energy and climate that will be published on 15 June.
In the latest edition of its World Energy Outlook, issued in November 2014, the IEA said that nuclear power is one of the few options available at scale to reduce carbon dioxide emissions while providing or displacing other forms of baseload generation. It has avoided the release of an estimated 56 gigatonnes of CO2 since 1971, or almost two years of total global emissions at current rates.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News