Energy-related carbon emissions hold steady for second year

16 March 2016

Global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions - the largest source of man-made greenhouse gas emissions - stayed flat for a second year in a row, the International Energy Agency (IEA) announced today following an analysis of preliminary date for 2015.

According to the preliminary data, global energy-related CO2 emissions in 2015 totalled 32.137 billion tonnes, up very slightly from the 32.134 billion tonnes emitted in 2014. Such emissions have "remained essentially flat since 2013", when emissions totalled 32.071 billion tonnes, the IEA said.

Energy-related CO2 emissions 1975-2015 - 460 (IEA)
Global energy-related CO2 emissions, 1975-2015 (Image: IEA)

The IEA suggests that electricity generated by renewables played an important role in stemming the rise in CO2 emissions, having accounted for some 90% of new electricity generation in 2015. It noted that wind turbines alone produced more than half of new electricity generation.

In parallel with the levelling out of CO2 emissions, the global economy continued to grow by more than 3% last year, "offering further evidence that the link between economic growth and emissions growth is weakening", the IEA said.

The IEA noted that in the more than 40 years it has been providing information on CO2 emissions, there have only been four periods in which emissions stood still or fell compared to the previous year. Three of those - in the early 1980s, 1992 and 2009 - were associated with global economic weakness, it said. However, the latest levelling in emissions comes during a period of economic growth, with the International Monetary Fund saying global GDP grew by 3.4% in 2014 and 3.1% in 2015.

IEA executive director Fatih Birol said, "The new figures confirm last year's surprising but welcome news: we now have seen two straight years of greenhouse gas emissions decoupling from economic growth. Coming just a few months after the landmark COP21 agreement in Paris, this is yet another boost to the global fight against climate change."

The IEA said more details on the data and analysis will be included in a World Energy Outlook special report on energy and air quality that will be released at the end of June.

Launching the 2015 edition of its World Energy Outlook last November, the IEA said there were signs of a global energy transition, with low-carbon technologies expected to generate almost half of the world's electricity by 2040.

The IEA said the global power generation mix is set to shift away from coal, the share of which falls from 41% today to 30% in 2040, after holding steady since 1990. The share of low-carbon technologies in total generation increases from one-third in 2013 to 47% in 2040, due to the growth of non-hydro renewables and a stable share of nuclear and hydropower.

Under the IEA's central scenario, output from nuclear power plants is forecast to increase from 2478 TWh in 2013 to 4606 TWh by 2040. Expansion in China accounts for almost half of incremental nuclear generation. However, nuclear's share of global electricity generation is expected to remain around the same level of 12%.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News