Feb 11, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Global CO2 emissions were flat in 2019

Ben Geman, author of Generate
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Reproduced from IEA; Chart: Axios Visuals

An IEA analysis released Monday found that energy-related CO2 emissions were flat last year at 33.3 gigatonnes.

Why it matters: Scientific analyses show that steep cuts — not just a plateau — are needed to meet the temperature goals of the Paris climate agreement.

The big picture: The finding came despite "widespread expectations of another increase" following growth in 2017 and 2018, IEA said.

  • It is roughly consistent with separate analysis from a research consortium called the Global Carbon Project (which also looks at cement industry emissions).
  • They estimated in December that energy-related emissions growth slowed last year to 0.6%. (One of that report's authors has a very helpful Twitter thread this morning.)

What they're saying: In a statement, IEA boss Fatih Birol said, "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."

  • "We have the energy technologies to do this, and we have to make use of them all," Birol added, noting IEA is seeking to build a "grand coalition" to boost global focus on emissions cuts.

Where it stands: IEA, explaining why overall emissions were flat, cited a "sharp decline" in CO2 from the power sector in advanced economies as renewables, gas and higher nuclear output shove coal aside.

  • "Global CO2 emissions from coal use declined by almost 200 million tonnes (Mt), or 1.3%, from 2018 levels, offsetting increases in emissions from oil and natural gas," they note.
  • However, emissions outside of the advanced economies kept growing, with most of the increase occurring in Asia as coal use there keeps rising.

Go deeper: Energy emissions stall as rich nations kick their coal habit (Bloomberg)

Go deeper

Study finds world's daily carbon emissions fell 17% in April

Adapted from Le Quéré et al. Nature Climate Change (2020); Global Carbon Project; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

The world's daily carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions fell by 17% in April — the peak of global lockdowns aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus — when compared to 2019 levels, according to a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change on Tuesday.

The big picture: Though researchers say CO2 emission levels are again increasing as lockdowns are gradually lifted, they estimate that total emissions this year will be between 4% and 7% lower than 2019's total, which would be the largest annual decrease since the end of World War II.

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Yes, but: The organization is still hoping to conduct the convention's "official business" in Charlotte, an RNC spokesperson said. However, the part that most Americans think about the convention — the spectacle of speakers and the president accepting the Republican nomination itself — will be held in a different state with more relaxed COVID-19 laws.

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Updates: George Floyd protests continue past curfews

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Protests over the death of George Floyd and other police-related killings of black people continued Tuesday across the U.S. for the eighth consecutive day, prompting a federal response from the National Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection.

The latest: Even with early curfews in New York City and Washington, D.C., protesters are still out en masse. Large crowds took a knee at Arizona's state capitol nearly an hour before the statewide 8 p.m. curfew, and a peaceful march dispersed in Chicago ahead of the city's 9 p.m. curfew.