In a groundbreaking analysis, the renowned clean energy think tank Ember has unveiled a remarkable revelation: the world's power sector, historically the most significant contributor to global carbon emissions, is on the cusp of a transformative turning point. This pivotal moment, marked by the probable peaking of emissions as early as this year, could herald a new era of diminishing carbon footprints.
While drafts of COP28's global stocktake "decision text" contain an option to agree on a goal for an economy-wide peak of emissions before 2025, the latest evidence from the power sector suggests overall peak emissions within the next couple of years is "eminently feasible," according to Ember.
The think tank said global power sector emissions plateaued in the first half of 2023 as wind and solar continued to grow, citing figures from its Global Electricity Review 2023.
"Global power sector emissions are likely to peak this year," Ember's analysis stated. "If not this year, there's a small chance that they would need to wait until 2024, but an equally small chance that 2023 data comes in lower-than-expected and actually emissions already peaked in 2022.
"The global peak is close, and the unstoppable progression of wind and solar has already pushed many countries past the peak and into a decline of fossil power."
According to Ember's latest findings, global power sector emissions stabilized in the first half of 2023, buoyed by the continued expansion of wind and solar energy. Their Global Electricity Review 2023 underlines the compelling statement, "Global power sector emissions are likely to peak this year." If not in 2023, there's a slim chance it might extend to 2024. However, an equally remote possibility exists that 2023 data might reveal emissions already peaked in 2022.
The global zenith is within arm's reach, with the relentless growth of wind and solar energy propelling many nations past their emissions peak and into a fossil power decline.
Ember's comprehensive analysis reveals that out of 215 economies, 107 reached peak fossil power generation at least five years ago. Over the last decade, power sector emissions have plummeted by nearly 20 percent, laying the foundation for an impending global peak and a subsequent decline in emissions.
Notable economies like the United States, European Union, and Japan have already surmounted their peak power sector emissions. These economies, having passed their peak by at least one year, represent half of the global electricity demand based on the latest available data.
Furthermore, based on a recent analysis of official government data and commercial figures from Carbon Brief, China is poised to see its carbon emissions peak this year, followed by a significant decline starting in 2024. By September, Beijing achieved its annual solar and wind capacity targets by September, with solar installations soaring by a staggering 210GW in a year, surpassing the entire US solar market's capacity addition and quadrupling the capacity added in 2020.
Ember's analysis suggests that while India is taking more time to reach its emissions peak, it stands at the precipice of a historic transformation. Solar and wind energy will contribute to two-thirds of India's power generation growth by FY 2032.
However, Ember issues a cautionary note, emphasizing that avoiding an upturn in fossil fuel generation hinges on a resurgence of hydro generation to normal levels and the stable maintenance of nuclear generation.
Ember's mid-year analysis underscores that adverse hydro conditions in the first half of 2023 prevented emissions from declining, estimating a potential 2.9 percent reduction in power sector emissions if global hydro generation matched 2022 levels.
Ember's compelling analysis echoes the sentiments of various recent studies. For instance, Berlin-based science and policy institute Climate Analytics projected a 70 percent probability of global greenhouse emissions starting to decrease in 2024.
Despite these promising developments, the UN's Emissions Gap Report issues a stark warning. Even with emissions potentially peaking in the coming years and governments striving to achieve decarbonization objectives, the world still faces the looming threat of approximately 2.5 degrees Celsius of warming this century unless swift emissions reductions occur over the next decade.