It is likely that we have all become accustomed to reading in the news progressively negative chatter about CO2 emissions increasing year on year. Indeed many of us may have now got used this ‘doomsday scenario’ becoming a reality. However, it is likely that 2015’s figures, when published, could buck this depressing trend. Latest estimates from the Global Carbon Project suggests that in 2015 CO2 emissions might have slowed significantly or even, a recent report suggests, fallen when compared to 2014 levels.
Lead report author of ‘Reaching Peak Emissions’ Rob Jackson, a professor of Earth system science at Stanford University says that “In 2014, global CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels grew by just 0.6 percent. This year we expect total emissions to flatten or drop slightly, despite strong growth in gross domestic product worldwide.”
It may be surprising but this is not the first time we have seen CO2 emissions drop or slow. However, the difference between previous instances where CO2s have slowed or fallen is that these years or periods have typically been in times of economic recession where one might expect such a slowdown due to reduced industrial activity. The current estimates, however, come at a time when the global economy is not slowing down but actually expanding. All of this suggests that affirmative action and policies by governments, environmental groups, industry citizens and the like that are designed to cut emissions are, at last, beginning to have some positive impact.
It would appear that at the core of this slowdown in CO2 emissions has been the decreased use of coal in China according to the report. Indeed, China was identified as the largest producer of CO2s in 2014, producing a staggering 27% of global emissions, compared to the USA’s 15.5%, the European Union at 9.5% and India at 7.2%. Co-author of the report Corinne Le Quéré of the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom states that “Decreased coal use in China was largely responsible for the decline in global CO2 emissions. After a decade of rapid growth, China’s emissions rate slowed to 1.2 percent in 2014 and is expected to drop by 3.9 percent in 2015.” This fact alone will make a significant difference in total global CO2 emissions.
However, in spite of the good news that is suggested by the report there is also a strong call for us not to get too carried away. This is because even if we continue this positive trend towards reducing emissions of CO2s then even in decades from now we will still be producing massive amounts. In order to achieve what the report calls a genuine ‘climate stabilisation’ will mean reducing carbon emissions to zero. As Jackson states, “Reaching zero emissions will require long-term commitments from countries attending the climate meeting in Paris this week and beyond.”
‘Reaching Peak Emissions’ is published in the journal Nature Climate Change on 7th Dec 2015 and the detailed data published in Earth System Science Data on the same date.
Written By - Richard Burdett (Managing Director) The Renewable Energy Hub | EcoLocker Ltd
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