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A growing worldwide shift to renewable energy has played a â€œcritical roleâ€ in stalling global carbon emissions, the worldâ€™s leading energy analysts declared on Wednesday.
According to the International Energy Agencyâ€™s (IEA) preliminary analysis of 2015 data, for the second year in a row, the amount of carbon emitted from the worldâ€™s power sector remained essentially flat at 32.1 billion tons.
According to the figures, which will be included in the IEAâ€™s annual World Energy Outlook report at the end of June, renewables â€œaccounted for roughly 90 percent of new electricity generation in 2015,â€ with wind alone producing more than half of that new power.
Those trends offset rising emissions in a number of developing countries in Asia and the Middle East as well as a â€œmoderate increaseâ€ in Europe.
At the same time, the global economy grew more than 3 percent, prompting the agency to declare that the â€œdecoupling of global emissions and economic growthâ€ has been officially â€œconfirmed.â€
Though environmentalistsÂ and otherÂ analystsÂ agree that the â€œendless growthâ€ demanded by a capitalist system is not sustainable, the findings nonetheless underscore the viability of a global shift to clean energyâ€”and put an end to many of the arguments against such a change.
â€œThe new figures confirm last yearâ€™s surprising but welcome news: we now have seen two straight years of greenhouse gas emissions decoupling from economic growth,â€ IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said.
The group notes that in the more than 40 years since they have been tracking carbon emissions, there have only been four periods during which emissions stood still or declined. With the exception of the past two years, those stalls all occurred during periods of global economic slowdowns.
The report notes that in the U.S., carbon emissions fell two percent in 2015â€”a decline which was largely attributed to the switch from coal to natural gas. However, natural gas production releasesÂ significant emissions of methane, which scientists say is an even more potentÂ greenhouse gas than carbon. The preliminary data does not factor in emissions of methane.
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