The recession has resulted in a ‘significant’ fall in greenhouse gas emissions as manufacturing falls, according to a study by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

In the first major study of its kind, the research has found that CO2 production from the burning of fossil fuels has fallen by the largest amount for 40 years.

Falling industrial output has been cited as the biggest single cause.

Other factors have played a role in the reduction, including the shelving of some plans for coal-fired power stations and the impact of environmental regulations imposed by governments.

The new data will be considered by world leaders ahead of December’s climate change conference in Copenhagen.

Chief IEA economist, Fatih Birol, told the Financial Times that the fall would make it ‘much less difficult’ to achieve the emissions reductions necessary to avoid dangerous climate change.

“We hope that an agreement in Copenhagen would give a signal for new investments to go in [an environmentally] sustainable direction,” he said in an interview with the newspaper.

“If we miss this opportunity it will be much more expensive and harder than ever to bring the world’s energy system onto a sustainable path,” he added.