Global carbon emissions could fall in 2015

Global carbon emissions are projected to stall with a possibility that they might actually decline by more than 0.6% in 2015, according to new research from the University of East Anglia.

The research, published in collaboration with the Global Carbon Project, bases its prediction on available energy consumption data in China and the US, and on forecasted economic growth for the rest of the world.

Crucially, the data suggests that 2015 could mark the first time that global emissions have declined during a period of strong economic growth.

Professor Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Centre at UEA who led the data analysis, said: “These figures are certainly not typical of the growth trajectory seen since 2000 – where the annual growth in emissions was between 2 and 3%. What we are now seeing is that emissions appear to have stalled, and they could even decline slightly in 2015.

“But it is important to remember that our projection for 2015 is an estimate and there will always be a range of uncertainty. In this case, the 2015 projection ranges from a global decline in emissions of up to 1.5 per cent – or at the other end of the spectrum, a small rise of 0.5 per cent.”

The report marks the second year where emissions have slowed, with CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and industries growing by just 0.6% last year. The report notes that the projected decline largely due to China’s move away from coal use.

However, Le Quéré has warned that the current trajectory is ‘temporary’ due to developing economies and countries still relying carbon intensive fuels and trends won’t stabilise until emissions decrease to near zero.

The research shows the biggest contributors to global emissions in 2014 were China (27%), the United States (15%), the European Union (10%), and India (7%). Despite the slowing of CO2 emissions globally, the research highlights that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has now reached 400 parts per million, its highest level in at least 800,000 years.

Commenting on the findings Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said: “Last year we saw signs that growth and emissions were uncoupling, and the new research suggests that’s set to continue and even accelerate – and interestingly the uncoupling appears mainly to be conscious, resulting from policy choices such as China’s move away from coal, Europe’s development of renewable energy, and measures to protect forests.

“This indicates that the old assumption of economic growth being dependent on rising fossil fuel use is broken. It should cheer anyone concerned that climate change might be insoluble, and encourage ministers meeting at the UN climate summit in Paris that pragmatic curbs on their carbon emissions are compatible with economic development.”

Bridging the gap

The report coincides with The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) launching the full version of the 2015 Emissions Gap Report, which found that the world was almost halfway to the emissions cuts needed to limit global temperature rise to 2°C by the end of the century.

Last month, a seperate report European think-tank Sitra found that global emissions could be reduced by up to 25% by using already-established climate solutions.

Alongside the readily-available solutions, the University of Cambridge found that cutting subsidies for fossil fuels could result in an ‘immediate boost’ of a 10%-12% reduction in greenhouse gases.

In recognition of the vast amount of country delegates arriving in Paris for the climate confere, edie has put together an interactive map highlighting the world’s biggest carbon emitters and what steps these countries are taking to reduce carbon reliance.

Matt Mace

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