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First time in 40 years, CO2 emissions stalled while the global economy grew

Good news for environmentalists and anyone who lives on the planet: for this first time in 40 years, the global economy grew, but the level of carbon dioxide emissions did not.

The International Energy Agency announced in a press release today that in 2014, global emissions of carbon dioxide remained 32.3 billion tonnes for a second year in a row. While carbon dioxide usually stalls during economic downturns, the global economy wasn’t in a downturn this year. It actually grew by 3 percent. This marks the first time since the agency began collecting data in the 1980s that the global economy grew and CO2 emmissions did not.

The agency credited the OECD countries and China for burning less coal and instead using more electricity generated from renewable sources, including hydropower and wind. More data and details will be released in June this year in London.

Environmental economist Robert Stavins of the Harvard Kennedy School
told the Washington Post that an additional reason for the stalled emissions, at least in the U.S., is more efficient cars as well as a natural gas boom due to more fracking, forcing out coal-fired electricity.

“This is both a very welcome surprise and a significant one,” IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol said in the release. “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.”