Emissions data critical for targeted climate action

7 November 2016

NASA image showing carbon dioxide from wildfires and urban sources blanketing the Northern HemisphereNASA image showing carbon dioxide from wildfires and urban sources blanketing the Northern Hemisphere

This week NASA announced it had produced global maps of CO2 emissions using its Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 satellite, which will provide more detailed and location-specific emissions data than has ever been possible. This information will be available to policy-makers in coming years.

Knowing exactly how much carbon dioxide is being released into the atmosphere – and from where – better enables countries to act on their climate commitments. The higher quality the data, the more targeted and effective the action. These actions will be critical to meeting global climate commitments.

With the successful ratification of the Paris Agreement, much of the discussion at COP22 in Marrakech, starting this week, will focus on implementation. The action will mostly take place within the energy sector, responsible for two-thirds of all greenhouse gas emissions and 80% of CO2 emissions. Thankfully promoting sustainable development and combating climate change have become integral aspects of energy planning, analysis and policy making within IEA member countries and beyond.

Such policy actions must be based on accurate data. For years, the IEA has been working with countries around the world to improve their reporting of energy data resulting in more accurate estimations of CO2 emissions. The IEA’s annual CO2 emissions from fuel combustion provides over forty years of data from more than 150 countries and regions worldwide – the most comprehensive estimates of CO2 emissions from fuel combustion across the world and across the sectors of the global economy.

This information has allowed the IEA to show that global greenhouse gas emissions are starting to decouple from economic growth. In other words, while economies are growing and standards of living are improving, CO2 emissions are growing at a relatively slower pace. China and the United states, in particular, have seen reductions in their emissions of greenhouse gases due to a variety of factors, including a switch from coal to natural gas for power generation and increasing energy efficiency.

Other IEA data available for free online include energy balance flows, country-level data, and IEA Key World Energy Statistics.

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