CO2 emissions stalls for the first time in 40 years

Photo credit: dmytrok via Flickr.
By Anders Lorenzen

It was not the news anyone expected to receive on Friday the 13th of March 2015 but, nevertheless, that was the day on which the International Energy Agency (IEA) announced that in 2014 CO2 emissions levelled off.

In a nutshell, this means that CO2 emissions have not risen in 2014 compared to 2013, and could indeed be about to level off. This would be the first time in 40 years that the fact that emissions have not increased was not tied to an economic downturn. The impressive results come despite a rise in GDP by 3% compared to 2013.

The IEA’s Chief Economist, Fatih Birol, responded to the findings :This gives me even more hope that humankind will be able to work together to combat climate change, the most important threat facing us today.

In 2014 the world emitted 32.3 billion tons of CO2, the same as they did in 2013.

These new encouraging data show us that the world`s efforts to tackle climate change are starting to take effect.  But they must be taken with a pinch of salt. These data are only preliminary, and the full details will not be released before the 15th of June. For the data to have more credibility, they will also have to be backed up by other scientific organizations. It is also not possible as yet to have accurate reporting on CO2 emissions, as in the more unstable developing countries reporting is not as precise as in the developed world.

The IEA attributes the halt in emissions growth to the changing patterns of energy consumption, primarily in China, but also in some developing countries. In 2014 China increased its generation of electricity from renewable sources, such as hydropower, solar, wind, and they burnt less coal.
But the IEA also said that we must be cautious. Executive Director, Maria van der Hoeven said:  The latest data on emissions are indeed encouraging, but this is no time for complacency – and certainly not the time to use this positive news as an excuse to stall further action.

A similar message comes from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which stated that while it is good news that emissions can stall while growing the economy, much more is needed if we are to limit climate change to a temperature increase of two degrees. Nevertheless, it shows that effective climate policies, a switch to clean energy and adaptation of energy efficiency measures are starting to work.

Policy makers, NGOs and environmentalists across the world in the lead up to the Paris climate summit, COP 21, later this year, will be campaigning for these policies. They will be reminding politicians that much more effort is needed in the coming years to reduce emissions on the scale needed to prevent dangerous climate change, and not only to ensure that emissions stall, but that they must start to fall dramatically.

Related news:

Increased hope of a Paris climate deal next year, as China could introduce a total emissions cap in 2016

UN says science has spoken on climate change

Analysis: The UN moves closer to a global deal on climate change

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Categories: Carbon, CO2, emissions, IEA, UN

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