Global Emissions Stable for Second Year as Economy Expands

  • Emissions decline in China, U.S. offset by advances elsewhere
  • UN envoys seek to keep temperature rise below 1.5 Celsius

Global carbon dioxide emissions were little changed for a second year even as economic output advanced, according to preliminary data compiled by the International Energy Agency.

Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions rose less than 0.1 percent to a record 32.137 billion metric tons, the agency said today in a report on its website. A decline in emissions in China and the U.S. was offset by increases in other developing Asian nations, the Middle East and a “moderate” gain in Europe, the Paris-based adviser to 29 countries said.

United Nations envoys agreed in December to try to limit global temperature gains to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial levels by boosting efforts to cut greenhouse gases blamed for climate change. Leading up to the UN climate summit in Paris that month, electricity from renewable sources including windfarms made up 90 percent of new power generation as global economic output rose 3.1 percent, according to the IEA data.

“The new figures confirm last year’s surprising but welcome news: we now have seen two straight years of greenhouse gas emissions decoupling from economic growth,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “Coming just a few months after the landmark COP21 agreement in Paris, this is yet another boost to the global fight against climate change.”

In China, emissions declined by 1.5 percent as coal use dropped a second year, the agency said. Coal generated less than 70 percent of Chinese electricity, 10 percentage points less than in 2011. U.S. emissions fell 2 percent as power utilities switched to natural gas from coal.

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