A new report from analysts at the independent climate think-tank, Ember (formerly called Sandbag), shows that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the global power sector fell by the highest level in three decades.
The report says global CO2 emissions from the power sector fell by 2% last year, the biggest fall since at least 1990, owing to reduced coal usage in Europe and the United States.
The drop in Europe was 24%, driven by a switch to renewables, while the U.S coal-fired generation was down 16% because of more competitive gas.
However, China bucked the trend with a rise as it became responsible for half of the global coal-fired power generation.
The fall in coal is partly due to a structural shift towards wind and solar but also relied on one-off factors, such as nuclear generation being restarted in Japan.
Ember warned that coal’s decline would have to be at a rate of 11% a year up to 2030 to keep global warming to 1.5C.
Adding that the goals set by the Paris Agreement remain at risk of being missed by a huge margin unless there is a far more rapid shift towards cleaner energy sources.
“To switch from coal into gas is just swapping one fossil fuel for another,” said Dave Jones, the lead author of Ember’s report. “The cheapest and quickest way to end coal generation is through a rapid rollout of wind and solar. But without concerted policymaker efforts to boost wind and solar, we will fail to meet climate targets. China’s growth in coal, and to some extent gas, is alarming but the answers are all there.”