The world’s carbon-dioxide emissions have stabilised


IT COULD be a rare piece of good news in the battle against global warming. The International Energy Agency (IEA), the world’s most prominent energy forecaster, said on March 16th that carbon-dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels have remained flat for two years in a row. Emissions from the world’s two biggest polluters, America and China, have been falling. The world has not seen such a lull since the early 1980s.

The IEA’s provisional findings will fan a debate about whether global emissions have peaked. China, after all, is trying to rebalance its economy away from heavily polluting industries towards services. But analysts say two years is too short a period to be considered a lasting trend. What is more, the IEA is relying on data that many economists question. If China’s official growth figures are exaggerated, then it would not be becoming less carbon intensive as fast as it seems.

The IEA said the world’s energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide stood at 32.1 billion tonnes last year, for the second year running. This is the first time they have remained flat during a period of economic expansion in more than 40 years. Fatih Birol, the IEA’s director, says the three main drivers were a big growth of renewable-energy use in global power generation, led by wind turbines; a switch in America from coal-fired plants to natural-gas-fuelled ones after the shale revolution and a government-led effort in China to curb emissions due to concerns about pollution as well as climate change. (via Economist)