Global carbon emissions flat for third straight year, BP study shows

Global carbon emissions remained flat for the third consecutive year, according to a BP study, which shows the fuel mix shifting away from coal towards low-carbon sources and energy efficiency.

The annual report found that renewables were the fastest growing energy source in 2016, accounting for almost a third of the increase, despite having a share of just 4%. China’s solar and wind revolution means the country has displaced the US as the largest renewables producer, with the Asia Pacific region taking top spot over Europe & Eurasia on a continental level.

“Global energy markets are in transition,” BP Group chief executive Bob Dudley said. “Rapid growth and improving prosperity mean growth in energy demand is increasingly coming from developing economies, particularly within Asia, rather than from traditional markets in the OECD.

“The relentless drive to improve energy efficiency is causing global energy consumption overall to decelerate. And, of course, the energy mix is shifting towards cleaner, lower carbon fuels, driven by environmental needs and technological advances.”

Growth in energy consumption was driven by China and India, which together account for around half of the rise in global demand. Both countries are expected to play a major role in the international low-carbon transition, with India’s growing renewable energy market set to end the country’s reliance on coal imports.

Coal consumption fell by 1.7%, representing a second consecutive year of decline, with the largest reductions in the US and China. In light of a pledge to phase out unabated coal power generation by 2025, the UK more than halved its own coal consumption, which has fallen “back to levels last seen almost 200 years ago around the time of the Industrial Revolution”.


The report showed that oil remained the world’s leading fuel, accounting for a third of global energy consumption. But slowing demand meant that global oil production witnessed its slowest growth since 2013.

The evidence comes as a separate new report suggests that wind and solar power could deliver more than a fifth of investment by the largest oil and gas companies in just over a decade. Rapidly falling renewables costs and reduced oil demand will require a shift in investment from companies such as BP, Shell and Total, the study from research group Wood Mackenzie found.

“The momentum behind these [renewable] technologies is unstoppable now,” director of research Valentina Kretzschmar said. “They [the oil companies] are recognising it is a megatrend; it’s not a fad, it’s not going away. There is definitely a risk to their core business.”

Major energy firms would need to spend more than £275bn on wind and solar by 2035 to take a market share similar to the current oil and gas stake of 12%, according to research. Many oil and gas companies are starting to shift towards low-carbon models in the face of growing concerns around climate change.

Seven major oil firms – BP, Eni, Repsol, Saudi Aramco, Royal Dutch Shell, Statoil and Total – announced a $1bn investment fund aimed at accelerating the development and uptake of low-carbon technologies, in November last year.

Multinational oil and gas company Total is launching a programme to fit 5,000 of its service stations across the globe with solar PV panels within the next five years, and recently agreed a deal with Norway to join one of the world’s largest facilities for testing carbon capture and storage (CCS). Also involved in the project is Norwegian oil and gas firm Statoil, which has pledged to reduce its own emissions by three million tonnes by 2030.

George Ogleby

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