Global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) – the largest source of man-made greenhouse gas emissions – stayed flat for the second year in a row, according to analysis of preliminary data for 2015 released today by the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The IEA report is great news for the planet, giving us hope that economic growth is possible without damage to our natural habitat. It however, showcases how well can we adapt if we put our money, effort and trust into new technologies/systems overall.
“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,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “Coming just a few months after the landmark COP21 agreement in Paris, this is yet another boost to the global fight against climate change.”
Global CO2 emissions remained virtually flat since 2013. The emission rate stands at 32.1 billion tonnes in 2015, according to IEA preliminary data. In parallel, the global economy continued to grow by more than 3%, offering further evidence that the increased economic growth shouldn’t always affect emissions growth. This confirms our beliefs that electricity generated by renewables played a critical role almost everywhere in the globe in reducing overall emission rates. From a 100% solar powered airport in India to the world’s largest solar plant in Morocco, It is worth noting that most of the electricity generation in fossil fuel environments is slowly switching to cleaner, gas turbine power plants, a healthy change for both the humans and the environment when compared to coal fired power plants worldwide.
For the last 40 years in which the IEA has been providing information on CO2emissions, there have been only four periods in which emissions stood still or fell compared to the previous year. All four were impacts of economic and/or social downturn. The recent stall in emission rates however, comes at a time of economic and social expansion, as the global GDP grew by about 3.4% in 2014 and 3.1% in 2015 according to the International Monetary Fund.
United States And China Decreasing CO2emissions
While there are serious environmental issues in China, the country seems to be combating its CO2emissions rather well. Most of the new plants opened in the Communist country, utilize gas fired electricity production, as where a dozen nuclear energy plants were opened recently as well – curbing the CO2emissions perfectly. It is also worth noting that the Chinese economy is moving from a production and export oriented way of doing things, to the more environmentally acceptable service economy. It still however remains to be seen how will the local populace react to this change – as we have already seen some signs of social unrest in the country last year.
As far as United States are concerned, the change to gas fired powerplants from dirty coal is seen throughout the country. Adding renewables, adding more electric cars and producing energy from nuclear powerplants all yields lower CO2emissions there. The switch to public transport in some cases, ensuring better railroad networks are available, creating improved sharing transport services, offering applications like Uber all have a part in making the United States less dependent on fossil fuel and curbing their emissions overall.
Potential CO2emissions Hotspots – India, Middle East, Africa
The issues that China and/or United States (to some extent) were going through, are now the primary source of potential issues in the emerging markets; the likes of India, Pakistan, Middle East and some parts of Africa. This means that as more of the Indian economy turns towards production/export, more electricity is needed – which, unfortunately, is made from coal powered powerplants over there. It also means that as more capital and money flows into the country there is more people that can afford cars.
This will definitely impact India’s rated CO2emissions. However, it is worth noting that most of the countries discussed (sans India) don’t have that many industrial facilities as China and USA – giving us reason to believe the developments in technology, processes and other important production factors will negate any rise in CO2emissions in those areas of the world overall.
About the IEA
The International Energy Agency is an autonomous organisation that works to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for its 29 member countries and beyond. Founded in response to the 1973/4 oil crisis, the IEA’s initial role was to help countries co-ordinate a collective response to major disruptions in oil supply. While this remains a key aspect of its work, the IEA has evolved and expanded. It is at the heart of global dialogue on energy, providing authoritative research, statistics, analysis and recommendations.