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Global Carbon Emissions Flat While Economic Activity Rises

The International Energy Agency announced on March 16 that, for the second year in a row, the world economy has grown while energy-related carbon emissions remained flat. it attributes the decoupling taking place between carbon emissions and economic expansion to greater energy efficiency and a surge in renewables. That decoupling is “unprecedented” and “huge” according to IEA chief Fatih Birol. The IEA explains that the only three previous times in the last four decades that emissions were flat or dropped (the early 1980s, 1992, and 2009) “were associated with global economic weakness.”

Much of the credit for keeping emissions from rising goes to the US and China. US emissions fell 2% last year while China’s dropped 1.5% “as coal use dropped for the second year in a row,” the IEA says. Its “data suggest that electricity generated by renewables played a critical role, having accounted for around 90% percent of new electricity generation in 2015.” 9 out of 10 new power generation facilities that came online last year rely on renewables, says Think Progress. Half of those utilize wind power to make electricity.


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