IEA Confirms Decoupling of CO2 Emissions, Economic Growth in 2015
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For the second year in a row, global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions registered no growth, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), while global gross domestic product (GDP) continued to grow.

Releasing preliminary data for 2015, the IEA reported that CO2 emissions amounted to 32.1 billion tonnes in 2015 and have remained flat since 2013.

The IEA pointed to a surge in renewables as a key factor, noting they accounted for 90% of new electricity generation in 2015.

IEA16 March 2016: For the second year in a row, global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions registered no growth, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), while global gross domestic product (GDP) continued to grow. Releasing preliminary data for 2015, the IEA reported that CO2 emissions amounted to 32.1 billion tonnes in 2015 and have remained flat since 2013. The IEA pointed to a surge in renewables as a key factor, noting they accounted for 90% of new electricity generation in 2015.

The IEA first reported a decoupling of the energy-related CO2 emissions and economic growth rates in March 2015, following the finding that, for the first time in 40 years a halt or reduction in emissions was not associated with an economic downturn. In fact, the year 2014 saw a 3.4% global GDP growth over 2013. With GDP growth greater than 3% again in 2015, the IEA highlights “further evidence that the link between economic growth and emissions growth is weakening.”

Leading the surge in renewables were wind capacity additions, which produced more than half of new electricity generation. In addition, the IEA notes that CO2 emissions in the energy sectors of the two largest emitters, China and the US, were down. China reduced coal use for the second year in a row and registered a 1.5% decline in emissions. Coal’s share of the country’s electricity generation is down 10 percentage points, compared to 2011, to less than 70%.

A 2% decline in emissions in the US was largely attributable to a shift from coal to natural gas in electricity generation. These declines in emissions in China and the US were offset by growing emissions in most other developing Asian economies, the Middle East and Europe, according to the IEA.

The energy sector is the largest source of anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The IEA will provide more sectoral analysis and data in conjunction with the release of its annual publication in June 2016, the World Energy Outlook (WEO). This year’s WEO is anticipated to include a special analysis related to energy emissions, air quality and health implications. [IEA Press Release] [IISD RS Story on Decoupling of Energy Emissions, Economic Growth in 2014]

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