US Emissions Cuts Credited With Steadying Rates Globally

(CN) — Announcing good news amid worldwide concerns about climate change and carbon emissions, a Paris-based energy agency reported Tuesday that global energy-related CO2 emissions measured at the same level in 2019 as the year prior.

This flatline was likely the result of clean energy transitions by the power sector in developed countries, the International Energy Agency said, noting that the United States has cut back the most per any country. Following two years of increases, man-made greenhouse gas emission levels remained at 33 gigatons in 2019, according to the report.

Change in energy related CO2 emissions by region, 2018-2019 (Credit: IEA)

“Generation from coal-fired plants in advanced economies declined by nearly 15% as a result of continued growth of renewables, coal-to-gas fuel switching, a rise in nuclear power and weaker electricity demand,” the report states. “The growth of renewables in electricity generation in advanced economies delivered 130 Mt of CO2 emissions savings in 2019. Wind accounted for the biggest share of the increase, with output expanding 12% from 2018 levels. Solar PV saw the fastest growth amongst renewable sources, helping to push renewables’ share of total electricity generation close to 28%.”

According to the IEA report, the flatline did not coincide with global economic trouble, as the global economy grew by 2.9% in 2019.

But while emissions in the United States, the European Union and Japan fell significantly, researchers found that the rest of the world’s combined emissions grew almost 400 million tons — an amount the agency said could signify the growing use of coal for power in Asia, across which emissions increased by almost 80%.

At least part of decreased U.S. emissions can be attributed to the country’s mild summer and winter weather in 2019, which resulted in a reduced demand for air conditioning and heat, the agency found. U.S. emissions have reduced by almost 1 Gt since the year 2000.

Fatih Birol, the agency’s executive director, said in a statement Tuesday that the IEA is building a coalition of governments, companies and investors that will collaborate to further lower world emissions.

“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,” Birol said. “We have the energy technologies to do this, and we have to make use of them all.”

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