WRI: 21 countries are reducing emissions while growing economies

The UK is listed among 21 nations that have achieved annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions while experiencing continued growth in GDP since the turn of the century, in a new report from the World Resources Institute (WRI).

The WRI analysis demonstrates the viability and increasing prevalence of the transition to cleaner modes of economic activity – a conversion which could prove increasingly significant as countries attempt to reach emissions reduction targets set out in the Paris Agreement.

Researchers scrutinise the emissions data of 67 countries, comparing BP’s global data on emissions with World Bank data on GDP.

Between 2000 and 2014, the UK achieved six years of ‘absolute decoupling’, where real GDP grew as carbon emissions declined. According to the analysis, the UK achieved an overall GDP growth of 27% along with a 20% cutback in CO2 emissions over the 14-year period.

Climate challenges

On a broader level, the 21 countries listed in this report – which also includes France, Germany and the US – collectively reduced CO2 emissions by more than a billion tonnes per year.

Writing on the WRI website about the analysis, research fellow Nate Aden said: “Given that total annual global carbon dioxide emissions grew by more than 10 billion metric tons over this period, it’s clear that decoupling needs to be scaled up rapidly to have any chance of limiting average warming this century to 2C above pre-industrial levels, the current international target for preventing the worst impacts of climate change.

“As countries focus on implementing the Paris Agreement, decoupling presents one option to address global climate challenges while preserving economic security.”

Various approaches have been taken to drive GDP-GHG decoupling by the 21 countries, including carbon taxes, a rapid upsurge in renewable energy deployment and a structural economic shift from emissions-intensive industry. The overwhelming majority of countries that diverged GDP and GHG emissions between 2004 and 2014 reduced the industrial sector share of their economies.

Further analysis from Carbon Brief extended the WRI study to consider all of the countries in the world, revealing that 45 of a total 216 national cut their CO2 emissions between 2000 and 2014, and only 35 increased their real GDP at the same time. The Carbon Brief study also included a carbon intensity indicator to measure how efficiently countries use their polluting energy resources. From 2000-2014, the UK reportedly witnessed a fall in its carbon intensity by 40%.

Earlier this month, edie reported on new data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) which revealed that international energy-related emissions had stalled for the second year running in 2015. This marked the first time in the 40 years the IEA has been sourcing information on emissions that the correlation between emissions and economic growth have been severed.

George Ogleby

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