IEA Report: Clean Energy Growth Limited Emissions Rise in 2023

Carbon emissions come from an industrial pipe

(Credit: International energy Agency)

by | Mar 4, 2024

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According to a new analysis from the International Energy Agency, emissions increases were not as intense in 2023 as in the previous year due to the continued expansion of solar, wind, and nuclear energy, as well as electric vehicles.

The IEA report said emissions in 2023 rose by about 1.1% in 2023, amounting to about 410 million tons. However, the IEA also found that without clean energy technologies, the world would have seen carbon emissions increase by three times more in the past five years. Last year, emissions growth would have been reduced further if not for severe droughts — China, the United States, and other major economies were unable to operate hydropower at full capacity, resulting in about 40% of the rise in emissions due to fossil fuels used in replacement.

Advanced Economies Reduce Rising Emissions Despite GDP Growth

Despite the continued rise in emissions, the clean energy transition has made significant progress and is on its way towards even greater emissions reductions.

In 2023, advanced economies were able to reduce carbon emissions despite growth in GDP, indicating a greater break in the link of fossil fuel energy development with economic growth. Last year was also the first year in which over half of the electricity generation in advanced economies was derived from low emissions sources. The combination of immense renewables deployment, switching from coal to gas, energy efficiency improvements, and lower-emissions industrial production reportedly led the way for these trends.

“The clean energy transition has undergone a series of stress tests in the last five years — and it has demonstrated its resilience,” said Fatih Birol, executive director for the IEA. “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. The clean energy transition is continuing apace and reining in emissions — even with global energy demand growing more strongly in 2023 than in 2022.”

Need for Investment in Developing Countries Remains

From 2019 to 2023, clean energy growth was twice as large as fossil fuel growth, and the continued deployment of renewables projects has accelerated a transition away from fossil fuels in this decade. However, clean energy development remains concentrated in advanced economies and China — in 2023, these countries accounted for 90% of new solar PV and wind power plants around the world and 95% of EV sales, according to the report.

The UN, IEA, and several other major international organizations have emphasized the need for investment in clean energy projects in developing and emerging economies as a key factor in meeting overall net-zero goals.

UN estimates indicate a massive investment gap, with a requirement of about $1.7 trillion of annual investment in renewables for developing countries. In 2022, developing countries only received $544 billion in clean energy investment, according to the UN.

“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,” said Birol. “Most importantly, we need far greater efforts to enable emerging and developing economies to ramp up clean energy investment.”

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