Energy Crunch: turning a corner?

March 20, 2015

NOTE: Images in this archived article have been removed.

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Coal fired plant image via vtpoly/flickr. Creative Commons 2.0 license.

Three things you shouldn’t miss this week

  1. Chart: IEA
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  1. Article: Global CO2 emissions ‘stalled’ in 2014 – Last year was the first in the past 40 where global emissions have remained stable without a major economic crisis.
  1. Article: Five charts showing the EU’s surprising progress on renewable energy – How the EU’s on track to hit its 2020 target, and where the green energy is coming from.
2014: the year we turned the corner on CO2 emissions? The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) initial data show that in spite of 3% global economic growth emissions from the energy sector remained at the same level as 2013. This is only the third year in the last 40 where emissions have not risen, with major economic crises causing the previous two pauses. The link between growth and emissions is certainly being questioned.
As we’ve reported before, coal use is falling in China, and the IEA partially attributes the halt in emissions to this trend. But it’s not just China where coal appears to be in decline. Worldwide, two planned coal plants have been shelved for every one that’s been built since 2010. In the United States and European Union (EU) the amount of decommissioned coal-fired generating capacity exceeded what was built by more than a fifth between 2003 and 2014.
The EU is also showing good progress towards its target of producing 20% of energy from renewables by 2020. By 2013 the EU as a whole had already reached 15%, although some countries, including the UK, are lagging behind. A look at the data shows that future progress could be more challenging, since hydropower and biomass have provided the lion’s share so far but are likely to face practical constraints.
Wednesday’s Budget statement in the UK contains little to incentivise the energy transition. By opting to continue the freeze on fuel duty despite much lower oil prices, the UK Chancellor passed up the opportunity to help decarbonise transport. He also handed the North Sea oil and gas industry a package of tax cuts worth £1.3 billion.
Despite some good news it’s important to remember that even if global emissions were to stay flat, the carbon budget for a 50% chance of keeping the increase in global temperature below 2oC would be used up by 2041. Stalling emissions are a good sign, but falling emissions are necessary.

Energy Crunch staff

The Energy Crunch team is Simone Osborn, David Strahan, Griffin Carpenter, Stephen Devlin, Aniol Esteban, Tim Jenkins.

nef is a UK's leading think tank promoting social, economic and environmental justice. nef's purpose is to bring about a Great Transition – to transform the economy so that it works for people and the planet.

Tags: carbon emissions, Coal, Renewables