CO2 Emissions Flat For Third Straight Year, Still Decoupled From Economic Growth, Says IEA

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

The International Energy Agency has confirmed that global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions remained flat for the third straight year in 2016, even as the global economy grew, confirming the decoupling of economic growth and energy demand.

Global emissions from the energy sector reportedly stood at 32.1 gigatonnes in 2016, the same level as it was in 2014 and 2015. Meanwhile, the global economy grew 3.1% in 2016 — compared to 3.4% in 2014 and 3.1% in 2015. Carbon dioxide emissions fell in both China and the United States — the planet’s two largest emitters — and held steady in Europe, the three regions together helping to offset the increases found throughout the rest of the world.

The United States actually managed to decrease its emissions by 3%, or around 160 million tonnes, while the country’s economy grew by 1.6% (though try telling Donald Trump that). According to the IEA, the decline in emissions was driven primarily by a surge in shale gas supplies and more available and attractive renewable energy, together displacing the use of coal.

“These three years of flat emissions in a growing global economy signal an emerging trend and that is certainly a cause for optimism, even if it is too soon to say that global emissions have definitely peaked,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director. “They are also a sign that market dynamics and technological improvements matter. This is especially true in the United States, where abundant shale gas supplies have become a cheap power source.”

The global emissions plateau is, at least partly, the result of increased renewable energy growth, to the point where renewable capacity additions in 2016 accounted for half of the global electricity demand growth, led by large-hydro. Natural gas production is also increasing, helping to mitigate any emissions growth in many of the western countries looking to natural gas.

China’s demand for coal continues to decrease, helping to decrease the countries emissions by 1% in 2016, despite the fact the countries economy grew by an impressive 6.7%. Two-thirds of the country’s electricity demand growth was served by renewables, mostly large-hydro and wind.

“In China, as well as in India, the growth in natural gas is significant, reflecting the impact of air-quality measures to fight pollution as well as energy diversification,” said Dr Birol. “The share of gas in the global energy mix is close to a quarter today but in China it is 6% and in India just 5%, which shows they have a large potential to grow.”

Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Latest CleanTechnica.TV Videos

CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.

Joshua S Hill

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (, and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at for more.

Joshua S Hill has 4403 posts and counting. See all posts by Joshua S Hill