Global emissions from energy held steady in 2019 for the first time in three years as developed nations continued to move away from coal power and toward renewable energy and natural gas.
Even as the world economy grew, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions remained at 33.3-billion tons. Increases in the developing world were matched by a drop from advanced economies, which spewed the least since 1993, according to an International Energy Agency report published Tuesday. The US and European Union led declines, with Germany reducing emissions to levels not seen since the 1950s.
“This welcome halt in emissions growth is grounds for optimism that we can tackle the climate challenge this decade,” Fatih Birol, IEA executive director, said in a statement. “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.”
The burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas accounts for the bulk of the world’s emissions. Other activities such as livestock raising and deforestation contribute smaller amounts.
The US reduced emissions by 2.9%, led by a 15% drop in coal power as cheap natural gas eroded its market share and milder weather subdued overall electricity demand.
The EU lowered emissions by 5%, with three quarters of that coming from the power sector increasing renewables and switching from coal to gas. Emissions from Japan fell 4.3%, the most since 2009, as output from recently restarted nuclear reactors climbed.
Despite the stagnation, global emissions still matched a record high set in 2018. Asia accounted for about 80% of the rise from the developing world as coal demand remains robust, particularly in Southeast Asia.
China’s emissions rose, but were tempered by slowing economic growth and gains in renewable energy and nuclear power. India saw a slight reduction in power-sector emissions that were offset by increases from transport.