Energy-related emissions increased in 2023, but grew by less than 2022, IEA reports

1st March 2024

By: Schalk Burger

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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Global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions rose less strongly in 2023 than the year before, even as total energy demand growth accelerated, with continued expansion of solar photovoltaic (PV), wind, nuclear power and electric cars helping the world avoid greater use of fossil fuels.

Without clean energy technologies, the global increase in CO2 emissions in the past five years would have been three times greater, global body the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its 'Clean Energy Market Monitor' report.

Emissions increased by 410-million tonnes, or 1.1%, in 2023, compared with a 490-million-tonne increase in 2022, taking emissions to a record level of 37.4-billion tonnes.

Specifically, an exceptional shortfall in hydropower owing to extreme droughts in China, the US and several other economies resulted in more than 40% of the rise in emissions in 2023, as countries turned largely to fossil fuel alternatives to plug the gap.

“Had it not been for the unusually low hydropower output, global CO2 emissions from electricity generation would have declined in 2023 and made the overall rise in energy-related emissions significantly smaller,” the report pointed out.

Additionally, advanced economies saw a record fall in their CO2 emissions in 2023 even as their gross domestic product (GDP) grew. Advanced economies' emissions dropped to a 50-year low while coal demand fell back to levels not seen since the early 1900s, the IEA highlighted.

“The decline in advanced economies’ emissions was driven by a combination of strong renewables deployment, coal-to-gas switching, energy efficiency improvements and softer industrial production.”

The past year was the first in which at least half of electricity generation in advanced economies came from low-emissions sources like renewables and nuclear.

“The clean energy transition has undergone a series of stress tests in the last five years, and it has demonstrated its resilience,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol.

“A pandemic, an energy crisis and geopolitical instability all had the potential to derail efforts to build cleaner and more secure energy systems. Instead, we’ve seen the opposite in many economies.

“The clean energy transition is continuing apace and reining in emissions, even with global energy demand growing more strongly in 2023 than in 2022.

“The commitments made by nearly 200 countries at COP28 in Dubai in December show what the world needs to do to put emissions on a downward trajectory. Most importantly, we need far greater efforts to enable emerging and developing economies to ramp up clean energy investment,” he said.

Further, the report showed that, from 2019 to 2023, growth in clean energy was twice as large as that of fossil fuels.

The new IEA analysis shows that the deployment of clean energy technologies in the past five years has substantially limited increases in demand for fossil fuels, providing the opportunity to accelerate the transition away from them this decade.

The deployment of wind and solar PV in electricity systems worldwide since 2019 has been sufficient to avoid an amount of yearly coal consumption equivalent to that of India and Indonesia’s electricity sectors combined, and to dent yearly natural gas demand by an amount equivalent to Russia’s pre-war natural gas exports to the European Union.

Additionally, the growing number of electric cars on the roads, accounting for one-in-five new car sales globally in 2023, also played a significant role in keeping oil demand, in terms of energy content, from rising above pre-pandemic levels, the IEA said in the report.

However, clean energy deployment remains overly concentrated in advanced economies and China, highlighting the need for greater international efforts to increase clean energy investment and deployment in emerging and developing economies, The Clean Energy Market Monitor showed.

“In 2023, advanced economies and China accounted for 90% of new solar PV and wind power plants globally, and 95% of sales of electric vehicles.”

Additionally, China’s deployment of clean energy technology continued to surge ahead as it added as much solar PV capacity in 2023 as the entire world had in 2022.

However, a historically bad year for hydropower output and the continued reopening of its economy after the pandemic drove up China’s emissions, which grew by around 565-million tonnes in 2023, the report added.

In India, strong GDP growth drove up emissions by around 190-million tonnes in 2023.

However, a weaker-than-normal monsoon increased demand for electricity and cut hydropower production, accounting for a quarter of the increase in India’s total emissions. Per capita emissions in India still remain far below the world average, the IEA noted.

Meanwhile, not all clean energy technologies progressed in 2023. Heat pump sales fell marginally as squeezed consumers held back on purchases of big-ticket items, highlighting the importance of continued policy support for equitable transitions.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online



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