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Study shows ‘first signs’ of slowdown in carbon emissions growth



The rate of annual increase in global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions dropped to 1.4% in 2012 – less than half the average over the past decade. This may represent the first sign of a “permanent slowdown”, according to a new study.

Trends in Global CO2 Emissions, by the Netherlands Environment Assessment Agency and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, says the figures could suggest a global decrease in carbon dioxide emissions – one of the major contributors to global warming – could be on the horizon for the not-too-distant future.

In 2012, the growth rate of CO2 emissions was 1.4%, less than half the average annual increase over the last decade – which was 2.9%.

The result was achieved despite the global economy growing at a rate of 3.5%. This was possible thanks to the increasing reliance on renewable energy sources, a shift to more energy saving practices and less use of fossil fuels.

The three main responsible for the largest share of CO2 emissions – China, US and the European Union, accounting for 55% of global CO2 emissions – all made significant steps to reduce emissions.

China’s increase of hydro energy grew and this allowed a 3% increase in emissions – which is low considering that in past years Chinese CO2 emissions used to go up by 10%.

In the US, the shifts towards shale gas helped the country’s CO2 emission to drop by 4%, while in the EU these went down by 1.6% thanks to a decrease in the use of fossil fuels and in road freight transport.

The report suggested that the results might be the first signs of a permanent slowdown, especially if nations continue to boost renewables and gas and the EU decides to restore the EU Emissions Trading System to keep emissions under control.

One of the authors of the report, Greet Maenhout, told the BBC, “It is good news but still not sufficient. We are still having increases every year which are cumulative. Since CO2 lives for 100 years in the atmosphere, we will still not be able to cope with a 2C target for 2050.”

Further reading:

Tipping point on carbon emissions just 30 years away, warn scientists

China to slow down coal consumption as part of clean air plan

Global carbon dioxide levels hit highest levels for three million years

Global CO2 levels on the brink of unwanted milestone

Climate advisers say UK imports are causing CO2 to rise