Global carbon dioxide emissions from power production flattened last year to 33 gigatonnes after two years of increase, despite expectations of another rise as the world economy expanded.
The International Energy Agency says the growth of renewable energy and fuel switching from coal to natural gas led to less emissions from advanced economies.
Milder weather in several countries and slower economic growth in some emerging markets also contributed, the agency said on Tuesday.
“We now need to work hard to make sure that 2019 is remembered as a definitive peak in global emissions, not just another pause in growth,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director.
The significant fall in emissions in advanced economies offset growth elsewhere.
Emissions from the power sector in advanced economies fell to levels last seen in the late 1980s, when electricity demand was one third lower than today, the IEA said.
European Union emissions fell by 160 million tonnes or 5 per cent last year from a year earlier due to greater natural gas use and wind power in electricity generation.
The United States recorded fall of 140 million tonnes or 2.9 per cent in emissions from the previous year.
Japan’s emissions fell by 45 million tonnes or around 4 per cent, as output from recently restarted nuclear reactors increased.
But emissions in the rest of the world increased by nearly 400 million tonnes in 2019, with almost 80 per cent of the growth coming from countries in Asia where coal-fired power generation continued to rise.
China’s emissions rose at a slower pace than previously due slower economic growth and higher output from low-carbon sources of electricity such as nuclear and renewables.
Emissions growth in India was “moderate” last year, according to the IEA.
Coal-fired power generation in the country fell for the first time since 1973 but fossil fuel demand in other areas such as transport offset the decline.
Emissions grew strongly in Southeast Asia driven by robust coal demand.