The International Energy Agency said Friday that energy-related carbon dioxide emissions remained in a no-growth pattern for the third consecutive year in 2016, attributing the emerging trend to growth of renewable power, turnovers from coal to natural gas, improvements in energy efficiency and, to a lesser degree, growth in nuclear power.
New nuclear power plants were turned on in China, the United States, South Korea, Russia, India and Pakistan in 2016 with China leading the way with an additional five reactors that increased nuclear power generation there by 25 percent, the IEA said.
About half of the growth in renewables came from hydro power, with wind contributing a significant portion. The IEA said that global emissions “stood at 3.1 gigatonnes last year,” which was the same as 2014 and 2015. Significantly, the energy sector remained level on emissions while the global economy grew by 3.1 percent.
In a separate important development, both the United States and China, the two largest energy users in the world, saw declines in energy-related emissions.
In Europe, emissions in 2016 were describe as “stable,” which meant that stability in Europe and declines the United States and China were able to offset increases throughout the rest of the world.
The largest decline came from the United States, where carbon emissions dropped 3 percent or by 160 million metric tons. Credit for the decline was given to increased use of renewables and natural gas, which are making headway in part as a replacement for older, coal-fired plants. Pointedly, carbon dioxide emissions are now at 1992 levels in the United States, despite an 80 percent growth in the economy since then, the IEA said.
IEA executive director Fatih Birol called the three-year balance “an emerging trend,” given the growth in the global economy. “That is certainly a cause for optimism, even if it is too soon to say that global emissions have definitely peaked,” Birol said.
“They are also a sign that market dynamics and technological improvements matter,” said Birol. “This is especially true in the United States, where abundant shale gas supplies have become a cheap source of power.”
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