‘Climate checklist’ – four steps to global emissions falling in 2024

How the ‘Big Four’ emitters – China, US, India and the EU – could play their part in bending the global emissions curve to point downwards.

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By George Smeeton


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2024 is highly likely to be one of the hottest years ever, but it could also be the year that global emissions start to fall. A new report from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) lays out how the ‘Big Four’ emitters – China, US, India and the EU – could play their part in bending the global emissions curve to point downwards.

The report makes clear four key steps the big emitters must take in 2024 to ensure global emissions begin their descent:

  1. China must continue its rapid renewables roll out to displace more coal power from its electricity grid;
  1. The US Inflation Reduction Act must drive further investment in solar energy, energy efficiency upgrades and EV sales (clean energy investment hit a record $64 billion in the third quarter of 2023, up 42% on the same period the year before);
  1. India needs to secure finance to enable continued transition away from needing new coal infrastructure, including through boosting solar panel deployment for which, as a developing country, it still needs the support and investment of wealthy nations and private companies; and
  1. The EU must continue its drive to cut energy demand through efficiency, and continue to boost both renewables and heat pump sales.

Commenting, Gareth Redmond-King, Head of International Programme at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) said: “This year could be historic for the wrong reasons, but also the right ones. After 2023 became the hottest year humans have ever experienced, between El Niño and worsening climate impacts, 2024 is likely to be one of the hottest years on record, maybe even hotter than 2023. But this could also be the moment when emissions peak and the world begins its journey of reducing carbon year on year, heading towards net zero. Net zero emissions is the only way we stop producing ever hotter years into the future.

“Those who say ‘why bother, when China’s emissions are so much greater than ours’ miss the point that countries comparable to the UK together account for more emissions than China, but also that this is now an economic race. The US has clocked that, and 2024 is when the full impact of the US Inflation Reduction Act is likely to be felt in clean industries throwing up factories across the States. The question for the UK is whether the political signals and incentives here are strong enough to ensure that we don’t fall behind, especially when investors are deciding where to invest. Net zero is a global megatrend, so miss the boat now and the UK economy ends up structurally weaker in the decades ahead. It took decades for the UK to rebuild a car industry; having led the way with things like offshore wind, it would be a shame if we had to do the same again with net zero industries, currently adding over £70 bn value a year to the UK economy.”

Together the big four emitters are home to 3.65 billion people, account for $70 trillion or 64% of global GDP, and were responsible for 54% of the world’s global greenhouse gas emissions in 2022, amounting to more than 29 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emitted. But they are also driving burgeoning investment and global momentum in the clean transition towards net zero emissions.

The report found that for the Big Four major emitters:


  • China’s carbon emissions are expected to fall in 2024 as it aims for a third of its power to be generated from renewables by 2025. This puts the world’s biggest emitter ahead of its commitment to peak by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2060.
  • Half of the world’s low carbon energy investment in 2022 was made by China: $546 billion. And China accounts for half of global renewable power capacity.

United States:

  • The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and two other acts passed around the same time committed an unprecedented half a trillion dollars to the clean energy transition.
  • Clean energy investment hit a record $64 billion in the third quarter of 2023, up 42% on the same period the year before, and nearly two thirds of IRA-funded projects are in Republican-led states, with Texas the biggest renewable energy producer in the country.


  • India plans to increase renewable capacity by more than half again, from 42.5% in 2023 to a 68.4% share of electricity by 2032, and aims to have 500GW of power generating capacity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030.
  • The National Electricity Plan commits to a halt in new coal for at least five years, adding 50GW of renewable energy capacity each of those five years.

European Union:

  • Since Russia invaded Ukraine, EU gas demand fell 55 billion cubic metres, or 13%, in 2022; its steepest drop in history. In the same year, 57 GW of renewables, mostly wind and solar, was installed, generating a fifth of electricity and overtaking gas and coal.
  • Energy efficiency measures in buildings reduced gas demand by 3.5 billion cubic metres in 2022, and 2.8 million heat pumps were installed in 2022, with usage up 39% on 2021.

Underlining the need for momentum, climate scientists expect that 2024 will see increased threats from worsening climate change and that, with added heat from El Niño, it could be the first year where average temperatures go beyond 1.5°C above pre-industrial times.

2024 will also see two billion voters from countries housing half the global population going to the polls, as 65 parliamentary or presidential elections are scheduled worldwide. Amongst those are Presidential elections in the US, and Parliamentary elections in India and the European Union – three of the big four.

And 2024 follows hard on the heels of nations’ collective commitment at COP28 to end the fossil fuel era – a commitment to ‘transition away from fossil fuels’.

As the biggest economies on the planet capitalise on the jobs and growth coming from investment in clean energy technology, as more and more people are exposed to worsening climate impacts, and as polling repeatedly shows high levels of public expectation from their politicians about tackling climate change, 2024 could build on this momentum from the big four. All of which could be why Climate Analytics has assessed the world has a 70% chance of reducing emissions in 2024.


Notes to editors:

  1. Climate Analytics: https://ca1-clm.edcdn.com/assets/When-will-global-greenhouse-gas-emissions-peak.pdf?v=1700638534
  2. ECIU – public embarrassed by politicians than renege on climate pledges: https://eciu.net/analysis/polling-cards/public-embarrassed-by-politicians-that-renege-on-climate-pledges
  3. ECIU - Nearly three-quarters (71%) of people who voted Conservative in 2019 but now say they’ll vote Labour if there was an election tomorrow, support the 2050 net zero target - https://eciu.net/media/press-releases/2023/comment-poll-more-conservative-to-labour-switchers-back-net-zero-target