Global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions stayed flat for the second year in a row, according to data released today by the International Energy Agency.
And the agency states that the increased role of renewables in the worldwide energy mix played “a critical role”.
Global emissions of carbon dioxide stood at 32.1 billion tonnes in 2015, having remained essentially flat since 2013.
The IEA data states that power generated by renewables accounted for around 90 per cent of new electricity generation in 2015, with windpower alone producing more than half of new generation.
The drop in emissions is given added significance by the fact that as they fell, the global economy continued to grow by more than 3 per cent, which the IEA says offers “further evidence that the link between economic growth and emissions growth is weakening”.
IEA executive director Fatih Birol said: “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 has been providing information on CO2 emissions for more than 40 years and in that time there have been only four periods in which emissions stood still or fell compared to the previous year. Three of those – the early 1980s, 1992 and 2009 – were associated with global economic weakness.
In 2015, China’s CO2 emissions fell by 1.5 per cent, as coal use dropped for the second year in a row. The IEA points out that “economic restructuring towards less energy-intensive industries and the government’s efforts to decarbonise electricity generation pushed coal use down”.
In the US, emissions declined by 2 per cent, on the back of a switch from coal to natural gas use.