Climate change is the change in climate (i.e. regional temperature, precipitation, extreme weather, etc.) caused by increase in the greenhouse effect.  The greenhouse effect is the process wherein greenhouse gases (such as water vapour, CO2, methane, et al.) in the atmosphere absorb and re-emit heat being radiated from the Earth, trapping warmth. The term Greenhouse gases refers to gases that contribute to the effect by absorbing infrared radiation (heat).

Decoupling of global emissions and economic growth confirmed

IEA analysis shows energy-related emissions of CO2 stalled for the second year in a row as renewable energy surged More »»

IEA warmly welcomes Paris Agreement

Deal represents "nothing less than a historic milestone for the global energy sector" More »»

Free IEA headline statistics aim to widen understanding of energy production and use

Agency makes available more than 200 000 data points ahead of COP21 to help inform climate debate More »»

IEA updates official carbon emissions data ahead of climate change negotiations,

While CO2 emissions from fuel combustion rose 2.2% in 2013, the increase held below the average rate since 2000 More »»

About climate change

Energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are the majority of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The fight against climate change has become a defining feature in energy policy-making, but the implications are daunting. Meeting the emission goals pledged by countries under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) would still leave the world 13.7 billion tonnes of CO2 – or 60% – above the level needed to remain on track for just 2ºC warming by 2035. 

We can lower our emissions in two ways. First, by lowering CO2 emissions on the supply side, for example by switching electricity generation from fossil fuels to renewables, or deploying carbon capture and storage. Second, by lowering emissions on the consumption side through reduced consumption, substitution – e.g. using a bicycle for a short journey instead of a car – and improved efficiency. Society’s benefit from these measures is likely to be equal or greater than the cost to the energy sector, even setting aside the climate benefit.

Our focus

Modern societies increasingly depend on reliable and secure energy supplies for economic growth and community prosperity. Maintaining reliable and secure energy supplies while rapidly decarbonising power systems is a key challenge for countries throughout the world.

The IEA can help member countries develop their energy policy so they can effectively address climate change. This includes finding and sharing examples of best practice, for which the IEA maintains databases of member countries’ climate, efficiency and renewable energy policies. The IEA supports the effective co-operation of countries through expert events and technical analysis for climate change negotiations.

Fast facts

  • 80%of global energy consumption is based on fossil fuels
  • 32.3 Gtof global energy-related CO₂ emissions in 2014, unchanged from the preceding year. This marks the first time in 40 years in which there was a halt or reduction in emissions of the greenhouse gas that was not tied to an economic downturn