Clean energy transitions are underway, led by the power sector (IEA, 2020). Total CO2 emissions stagnated in 2019, at 33Gt, as the reductions made by advanced economies* offset those still developing in the rest of the world.
* – Australia, Canada, Chile, European Union, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Norway, New Zealand, Switzerland, Turkey, and United States.
Total energy-related CO2 emissions across these countries fell by 3.2% in 2019, 85% of which was attributed to reductions in the power sector, where an increase in renewables, coal-to-gas switching, and nuclear generation has been seen. This has allowed their combined energy related CO2 emissions to drop to levels not seen since 1993 (11.3Gt CO2).
Each of these ‘advanced economies’ still has considerable gains to be made, in this and across other sectors. A range of options exist to further curb their emissions in the short-term (i.e. that do not require technological advances).
- Australia is looking to address its coal-use, with emissions 49% above 1990 levels in 2017 (403Mt CO2) – the Federal Energy Minister is considering adopting a net-zero emissions target by 2050.
- The US, whilst leading cuts by volume, has developed a significant flaring/venting habit in association with its shale oil production – something that cannot necessarily be controlled by regulation, given private land owners’ rights.
- The EU must reduce its reliance on imported resources and take responsibility for the associated carbon emissions. ‘Offshoring’ carbon, carbon ‘leakage’ or ‘shrinkage’, as it is interchangeably known, is in response to a ‘not in my back-yard’ mindset, which must be addressed.
In the rest of the world, emissions grew by close to 400Mt in 2019, with almost 80% of the increase coming from Asia.