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.
The progress has been apparent. According to the IEA, 2016 emissions in the United States were at their lowest level since 1992, almost a quarter century during which the economy grew by 80%.
“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,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement.
The declines are also a sign that market dynamics and tech advancements are having a impact, and are helping separate economic growth from energy emissions, according to Birol. “This is especially true in the United States, where abundant shale gas supplies have become a cheap power source,” said Birol.
IEA also noted the increase in global nuclear capacity last year was the highest since 1993: New reactors came online in China, the United States, South Korea, India, Russia and Pakistan. Coal demand fell worldwide but the drop was “particularly sharp” in the United States, the agency said, down 11% last year.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said long-term projections indicate renewable energy and natural gas will likely continue to grow regardless of what happens with the Clean Power Plan. The 2017 Annual Energy Outlook reference case — based on existing policies, including the CPP — forecast that wind, solar and natural gas will dominate capacity additions into the next decade, and that coal generation will continue a steady decline.
Without the CPP, coal generation would remain steady through the 2020s, EIA said. The plan, President Obama’s signature environmental rule, would have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 32% from existing power plants.
IEA: Global energy carbon emissions flat for 3rd consecutive year