Global energy-related carbon emissions flattened out in 2019

The growth of renewable energy and fuel switching from coal to natural gas led to less emissions from advanced economies

"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 IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol.

In 2019, drops in emissions in advanced economies were largely the result of shifts in the energy sector, with expanding use of renewable energies like wind and solar, which don't emit greenhouse gases. Coal-fired power generation in advanced economies declined by almost 15% as a result of growth in renewables, coal-to-gas switching, a rise in nuclear power and weaker electricity demand. The report doesn't include greenhouse-gas emissions from other sources like agriculture, land-use changes, or wildfires, which could otherwise affect the totals.

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.

While this is no time for advanced economies to rest on their laurels, the data suggests that emerging economies will have to play a greater role in reducing carbon emissions, given that majority of the higher carbon emissions are originating from developing economies. Other factors included milder weather in several countries, and slower economic growth in some emerging markets.

"Today's IEA report on global emissions is proof positive that innovation and technology are the solution to the world's climate challenges", U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said in a statement Tuesday.

Advanced economies led the declines, with the United States posting the largest emissions' contraction on a country basis, with a fall of 140 million tonnes, or 2.9 per cent lower.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) responded on Twitter, "FACT you will NEVER see on the 6 o'clock news: US emissions FELL 2.9%, or by 140 million tons, continuing the trend of the United States LEADING THE WORLD IN TOTAL EMISSIONS DECLINE since 2000". To stay clear of 1.5 ˚C, which carries frightening risks of its own, we'd likely have to more than halve emissions by 2030.

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", Birol said.

The burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas accounts for the bulk of the world's emissions.

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 USA, however, carbon emissions grew by almost 400 million tons in the rest of the world in 2019, with almost 80% of the increase coming from Asia, where countries increased their use of coal.

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