CO2 emissions flat for third straight year as GDP grows

Gas first-ever gets ahead of coal as fuel for US power plants

Stricter emissions regulations, a decline in the use of coal, cheaper natural and the rise of clean energy have all helped keep global emissions flat since 2014.

Carbon dioxide emissions fell in the United States and China, the world's two largest energy users and emitters, and were stable in Europe.

"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, IEA's executive director, in its report.

The German Government - set to receive G20 Presidency later this year - commissioned the first ever collaborative report between the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the International Energy Agency (IEA), to examine the economic costs and benefits of transitioning to a low-carbon future.

"They are also a sign that market dynamics and technological improvements matter", said Birol.

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This was particularly true in the United States, where demand fell by 11%, and electricity generation from natural gas was higher than from coal for the first time, while there was also a significant coal-to-gas switch in the UK. But also, the buildings, industry and transport sectors need more bioenergy, solar heating and electricity from renewable sources that substitute conventional energy.

They note that in the U.S., the economy grew previous year by 1.6 percent, while its carbon emissions dropped by 3 percent.

The report also describes how the energy sector transition needs to go beyond the power sector into all end-use sectors.

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. Renewables need to account for the majority of power generation in 2050, based on continued rapid growth especially for solar and wind power in combination with enabling grids and new operating practices.

The IEA said that "while the pause in emissions growth is positive news to improve air pollution, it is not enough to put the world on a path to keep global temperatures from rising above" two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). The report states that emissions will need to fall continuously to 9.5 Gt by 2050 to limit warming to no more than two degrees above pre-industrial temperatures.

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