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CO2 emissions reached record high in 2023 — IEA

March 1, 2024

Clean energy tech has helped limit the rise but the IEA warns steep cuts in CO2 emissions to limit a global rise in temperatures. There are, however, some positive signs, especially in advanced economies.

Emissions from a chimney in the port of Moerdijk.
CO2 emissions comes mainly from burning fossil fuelsImage: picture alliance

Energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide hit a record high in 2023, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a report on Friday.

The IEA analysis showed that it rose by 410 million tonnes, or 1.1%, in 2023 to 37.4 billion tonnes.

"Far from falling rapidly — as is required to meet the global climate goals set out in the Paris Agreement — CO2 emissions reached a new record high," the IEA said.

However, the  Paris-based watchdog also found clean energy including wind and solar energy, as well as electric vehicles, had helped to offset the impact of the continued burning of coal and oil growth, which was 1.3% in 2022.

Drought played a role in driving emissions

The reopening of China's economy after the COVID-19 pandemic and a recovery in the aviation sector contributed to an overall rise, the IEA said in its report.

Severe droughts last year in China, the United States, India, and other countries hampered hydropower production.

It accounted for around 40% of the rise in emissions or 170 million tonnes of CO2.

"Without this effect, emissions from the global electricity sector would have fallen in 2023," the IEA said.

Carbon dioxide emissions from coal accounted for the remaining increase.

Renewable energy breakthrough

The IEA analysis showed that 2023 was the first year in which at least half of electricity generation in industrialized countries came from low-emission sources such as renewable energy and nuclear power.

Energy-related emissions in the United States fell by 4.1%, and 9% in the European Union, driven by a surge in renewable power generation.

Overall, advanced economies' emissions dropped to a 50-year low as coal demand fell back to levels not seen since the early 1900s. 

While emissions rose in China, the IEA said that the country also contributed around 60% of global additions of solar, wind power, and electric vehicles in 2023. 

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Scientists say fossil fuel emissions will need to be cut over the coming years to limit a global rise in temperatures and prevent runaway climate change.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday that cutting emissions is "essentially" the responsibility of G20 nations.

"It is absolutely essential that there is not only a much bigger ambition in relation to the reduction of emissions, and that is essentially a responsibility of the G20 countries that represent 80% of the emissions," Guterres said.

lo/ab (Reuters, AFP, dpa)