Drop in advanced economy emissions in 2023

Cosmos Magazine


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By Cosmos

A new report out today has revealed global emissions in advanced economies have dropped to 50-year lows but overall emissions continue to reach record levels.

The analysis by the International Energy Agency (IEA) shows a downward trend in CO2 emissions by the world’s biggest economies through the continued expansion of renewables.

The world emitted 37.4bn tonnes of CO2 equivalent into the atmosphere in 2023, but the rate of growth is being slowed.

Year-on-year, 2023 saw an additional 410m tonnes of extra CO2 emitted, compared to 2022’s total. That’s down from a 490m tonne surplus the year prior.

Co2 emissions from combustion in advanced economies 1973 2023
Source: IEA

Energy from coal burning is now at levels not seen since 1933. Coal makes up less than a fifth of energy production in advanced economies, with renewables accounting for a third and nuclear around a sixth.  

Amid slowing economic and industrial activity, the EU saw wind energy overtake coal and natural gas for energy production. The EU reduced its carbon emissions by 9% year-on-year. The United States saw smaller declines – 4% – with climate conditions hampering effective hydro and wind power generation. 

In a statement, IEA executive director Fatih Birol said clean electricity generation had shown its ability to withstand economic and sector pressures over the last 5 years. 

“A pandemic, an energy crisis and geopolitical instability all had the potential to derail efforts to build cleaner and more secure energy systems. Instead, we’ve seen the opposite in many economies,” Birol said. 

“The clean energy transition is continuing apace and reining in emissions – even with global energy demand growing more strongly in 2023 than in 2022. The commitments made by nearly 200 countries at COP28 in Dubai in December show what the world needs to do to put emissions on a downward trajectory.” 

Unfavourable climate conditions and a ramp-up in energy-intensive industries saw major emitters China and India increase their emissions. 

That, says the IEA, is particularly due to increased energy demand that can’t be met by these nations’ current renewable capacity. Post-COVID reopening also saw passenger transport kilometres jump by 50% and air travel kilometres by more than double 2022 levels.  

A ‘poor’ monsoonal season in India reduced the effectiveness of the nation’s hydropower generation at a time when demand for agricultural pumping rose. Together this accounted for about a quarter of India’s emissions increase. 

China’s per capita emissions surpassed Japan for the first time but remain one-third lower than the USA. 

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