Global emissions from energy sector stalled in 2014

Good news everyone ! According to the International Energy Agency, global carbon emissions related to the energy sector ” stalled ” last year. This took place in a time of global economic growth (+3% globally).

And this important detail changes everything.

Indeed ! It is the first time that emissions stalled during economic growth in the four decades the IEA has been accounting for global emissions from the energy sector. Otherwise, emissions were cut during economic recessions (the early 1980’s; 1992 and 2009).

Here are more details from the official press release :

Global emissions of carbon dioxide stood at 32.3 billion tonnes in 2014, unchanged from the preceding year. The preliminary IEA data suggest that efforts to mitigate climate change may be having a more pronounced effect on emissions than had previously been thought.

The IEA attributes the halt in emissions growth to changing patterns of energy consumption in China and OECD countries. In China, 2014 saw greater generation of electricity from renewable sources, such as hydropower, solar and wind, and less burning of coal.

In OECD economies, recent efforts to promote more sustainable growth – including greater energy efficiency and more renewable energy – are producing the desired effect of decoupling economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions.

“This is both a very welcome surprise and a significant one,” added Birol. “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.”

This is only the beginning. Remaining flat for a year might be fantastic compared to recent growth of greenhouse gases emissions : +75% between 1970 and 2004 (source) and + 58% since 1990 (relative to 2012, source). But this is nowhere near enough.

As I wrote before, we now need to become carbon neutral. That means that all our emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and so on have to be no bigger than what Nature can absorb. This is a tall order but I believe it can be done by decupling investments in energy efficiency and renewables such as solar, wind and the likes.

Image credits : flickr. 

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