Between 2007 and 2019, the developed countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have cut carbon dioxide emissions from 13 billion metric tons (Gt) to 11.3 Gt, while emissions from the world’s developing nations have risen from 15.9 Gt to 22.0 Gt. Emissions from developing nations rose last year while emissions from developed nations dipped.
In 2015 and 2016, global emissions dropped from 32.3 to 32.2 Gt in both years. Emissions rose to 32.7 Gt in 2017 and spiked to 33.3 Gt in 2018. Last year’s total remained at 33.3 Gt, ending the streak of two consecutive increases.
The data comes from the International Energy Agency (IEA) report, Global CO2 emissions in 2019, released Tuesday morning. The agency attributed the halt to “declining emissions from electricity generation in advanced economies, thanks to the expanding role of renewable sources (mainly wind and solar), fuel switching from coal to natural gas, and higher nuclear power generation.”
IEA executive director Fatih Birol commented, “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. … This welcome halt in emissions growth is grounds for optimism that we can tackle the climate challenge this decade. It is evidence that clean energy transitions are underway – and it’s also a signal that we have the opportunity to meaningfully move the needle on emissions through more ambitious policies and investments.”
Among the world’s developed countries, the United States recorded the largest year-over-year decline in 2019. U.S. emissions dropped by 2.9% last year, by 140 million metric tons (Mt), and have fallen by about 1 Gt since reaching a peak in 2000.
Emissions from the nations of the European Union dropped by 160 Mt (5%) and emissions from Japan dropped by 45 Mt (4%), the country’s fastest rate of decline in a decade.
Then comes the not-so-good news: “Emissions in the rest of the world grew by close to 400 [Mt] in 2019, with almost 80% of the increase coming from countries in Asia where coal-fired power generation continued to rise.”
Emissions from burning coal in advanced economies declined by 370 million Mt (3.2%) last year as the electric power sector’s emissions declined by 85%. That decline was offset by an increase of about 170 Mt of new coal burning in developing economies. The overall decline in emissions from coal burning totaled about 200 Mt (1.3%) year over year in 2019.
China and India both saw increases in CO2 emissions, but the IEA report noted that China’s emissions were “tempered by slower economic growth and higher output from low-carbon sources” like renewables and nuclear.
In India, coal-fired power generation fell for the first time in more than 40 years as CO2 emissions from the power-generation sector declined slightly as more renewable generation was added. The rising use of fossil fuel for transportation offset the decline in power sector emissions.
India and China are just two of the 25 countries that are producing the most carbon dioxide emissions.