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).

Renewables, coal-to-gas switching, and improvements in energy efficiency contributed to stalling emissions growth last year. (Photograph: Getty Images). More »»


IEA Participation in COP22 with solutions, analysis and data for the global energy transition More »»

Energy, Climate Change and Environment 2016 Insights

This report looks at building climate resilience in the energy sector, using tracking tools and metrics to monitor the progress of energy sector decarbonisation. It also provides global energy and emissions data, including interregional comparisons and in-depth analysis for ten regions More »»

Paris Agreement formally enters into force

The historic Paris Agreement on climate change sets the course for a fundamental transformation of the global economy over the next decades. 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

Climate change

Promoting sustainable development and combating climate change have become integral aspects of energy planning, analysis and policy making. Because energy accounts for two-thirds of total greenhouse gas emissions and 80% of CO2, any effort to reduce emissions and mitigate climate change must include the energy sector.

Global CO2 emissions remained flat in 2016 for a third consecutive year, although the global economy grew. Changes to the fuel mix and energy efficiency played key roles.

<Interactive CO2 chart>

Source: CO2 Emissions From Fuel Combustion Highlights 2016

More CO2 statistics >

Meeting the long-term climate objectives of the Paris Agreement requires urgently tackling energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. Individually and collectively, countries need to define and implement policies for accelerated clean energy transitions that are enabled by real-world SOLUTIONS, supported by ANALYSIS, and built on DATA. The IEA works with countries across the globe to implement climate-resilient decarbonisation pathways.