American Electric Power's (AEP) Mountain

Global carbon dioxide emissions held steady in 2014 at 32.3 billion tons even though the global economy grew by 3 percent according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). This is the first year since the IEA began tracking carbon emissions 40 years ago that emissions have decoupled from economic growth.

Previous instances where CO2 emissions have declined have all been associated with recessions and economic downturns, during the 1980’s oil price shock, in 1992 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and in 2009 during the global financial crisis.

The IEA attributes the drop in emissions growth to efforts in China and the OECD countries to alter their energy consumption patterns. In China there has been greater use of renewables such as hydro, wind and solar at the expense of burning more coal. OECD countries have also been promoting greater energy efficiency and renewable energy.

“This is both a very welcome surprise and a significant one,” said Fatih Birol who was recently named to be the new Executive Director of the IEA. “It provides much-needed momentum to negotiators preparing to forge a global climate deal in Paris in December: for the first time, greenhouse gas emissions are decoupling from economic growth.”