Global carbon emissions have slowed down for 3 years, says research

Global carbon emissions

Global carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels did not grow in 2015 and are projected to rise only slightly in 2016, and this makes three years of almost no growth.

The University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Global Carbon Project conduct the research.

The projected rise of only 0.2% for 2016 marks a clear break from the rapid emissions growth of 2.3% per year in the decade to 2013, with just 0.7% growth seen in 2014.

The new data is published in the journal Earth System Science Data. It shows emissions growth remained below 1% despite GDP growth exceeding 3%.

Decreased use of coal in China is the main reason behind the 3-year slowdown.

Prof Corinne Le Quéré, who led the data analysis, said: “This third year of almost no growth in emissions is unprecedented at a time of strong economic growth.”

“This is a great help for tackling climate change but it is not enough. Global emissions now need to decrease rapidly, not just stop growing.”

China — the biggest emitter of CO2 at 29% — saw emissions decrease by 0.7% in 2015, compared to growth of more than 5% per year the previous decade.

A further reduction of 0.5% is projected for 2016, though with large uncertainties.

The USA, the second biggest emitter of CO2 at 15%, also reduced its coal use while increasing its oil and gas consumption and saw emissions decrease 2.6% last year.

USA emissions are projected to decrease by 1.7% in 2016.

The EU’s 28 member states are the third largest emitter causing 10% of emissions.

The EU’s CO2 emissions went up 1.4% in 2015, in contrast with longer term decreases.

India contributed 6.3% of all global CO2 emissions, with their emissions increasing 5.2%, in 2015 continuing a period of strong growth.

Although the break in emissions rise ties in with the pledges by countries to decrease emissions until 2030, it falls short of the reductions needed to limit climate change well below 2 degrees Celsius.

The Global Carbon Budget analysis also shows that, in spite of a lack of growth in emissions, the growth in atmospheric CO2 concentration was a record-high in 2015, and could be a record again in 2016 due to weak carbon sinks.

The Global Carbon Project’s estimation of global CO2 emissions and their fate in the atmosphere, land and ocean is a major effort by the research community to bring together measurements, statistics on human activities, with analysis of model results.

Prof Le Quéré stressed the need for reporting such as the Global Carbon Budget to inform decisions and actions on how to respond to climate change.

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Citation: Le Quéré C, et al. (2016). Global Carbon Budget 2016. Earth System Science Data, 2016; 8 (2): 605. DOI: 10.5194/essd-8-605-2016.
Figure legend: This image is for illustrative purposes only.