Global emissions of carbon dioxide from the energy sector were unchanged from the preceding year—marking the first time in 40 years in which there was a halt or reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases that was not associated to an economic downturn, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said. 

The Paris-based autonomous organization said in a March 13 statement that emissions of carbon dioxide from the world’s energy sector stood at 32.3 billion metric tons in 2014.

“The preliminary IEA data suggest that efforts to mitigate climate change may be having a more pronounced effect on emissions than had previously been thought,” the agency said.

The IEA attributes the halt in emissions growth to China’s increased consumption of renewable power and decreased combustion of coal, and efforts to promote energy efficiency and more renewable energy growth by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries.

Over the past 40 years in which the IEA has been collecting data on carbon dioxide emissions, emissions fell or stood still only three times compared to the previous year—and all were associated with global economic weakness: the early 1980s, 1992, and 2009. In 2014, the IEA says, the global economy expanded by 3%.

More details on the data will be released in an IEA special report on energy and climate expected this June.

IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol, recently named to take over from Maria van der Hoeven as the next IEA executive director, said the finding “provides much-needed momentum to negotiators preparing to forge a global climate deal in Paris in December: For the first time, greenhouse gas emissions are decoupling from economic growth.”

Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)