Energy carbon emissions in 2016 flat for third year: IEA

Tomas Mccoy
March 21, 2017

Energy sector emissions of 32.1 gigatons were unchanged from 2015 and 2014 even though the global economy grew by 3.1 percent, the IEA estimated.

Significantly, the energy sector remained level on emissions while the global economy grew by 3.1 percent. The IRENA report suggests that more jobs will be created than lost with a switch over to renewables and also differs from the IEA report on the extent to which fossil fuels would continue to be used, especially natural gas.

"These three years of flat emissions in a growing global economy signal an emerging trend and that is certainly a cause for optimism, even if it is too soon to say that global emissions have definitely peaked", IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement.

By far the main culprit in global warming, carbon dioxide emissions stood at 32.1 billion tons past year, the IEA estimated.

To help achieve this, the share of renewable energy in primary energy supply would need to increase to 65 percent in 2050 from 15 percent in 2015, the report said.

Renewables supplied more than half of the global electricity demand growth past year, with hydropower accounting for 50% of this, while coal demand fell worldwide.

The German Government - set to receive G20 Presidency later this year - commissioned the first ever collaborative report between the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the International Energy Agency (IEA), to examine the economic costs and benefits of transitioning to a low-carbon future.

Carbon dioxide output also declined in China, by 1 per cent, and were stable in Europe, offsetting increases in most of the rest of the world, the IEA says.

The largest decline came from the United States, where carbon emissions dropped 3 percent or by 160 million metric tons. For example, emissions declined 1% in China while economic activity increased 6.7%.

The report also called for policy efforts to create an enabling framework and re-design of energy markets.

"In China, as well as in India, the growth in natural gas is significant, reflecting the impact of air-quality measures to fight pollution as well as energy diversification", said Dr Birol. The coming Berlin meeting is expected to draw over 1,000 participants and comes at a time when the world is uncertain of the role the United States will play in worldwide efforts to control global warming. "While the pause in emissions growth is positive news to improve air pollution, it is not enough to put the world on a path to keep global temperatures from rising above 2 degrees C".

An additional $29 trillion of energy investment would be needed to 2050, equivalent to 0.4 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP). Emissions need to fall to 9.5 gigatonnes by 2050 to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, IRENA said.

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