Global carbon emissions didn’t grow in 2015, and only rose slightly in 2016. The projected rise for 2016 is only 0.2 percent, which a huge improvement over the 2.3 percent seen each year of the decade up to 2013. In 2014, it was only 0.7 percent.
This analysis was published in the journal Earth System Science Data. The authors put the credit for the three-year slowdown on China, where coal use is being decreased.
Professor Corinne Le Quéré of the Tyndall Center at the University of East Anglia, who led the data analysis, says, “This third year of almost no growth in emissions is unprecedented at a time of strong economic growth.”
The fact that we’ve seen emissions growth at less than 1 percent despite GDP growing by 3 percent is good news. It sends a clear message to governments that we can reduce emissions without reducing economic growth, which has long been an argument held by industrialists and governments.
All of this sounds good, and it is, because it means that we aren’t producing as much carbon as we used to, which is good for the environment. But it’s more complicated than that. We need to not only reduce growth in carbon emissions, but actually decrease them, rapidly, if we are to meet our goal of limiting global climate change to under 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. At this rate, that might not happen.
While it may be tempting to think of this research as showing improvement, it’s actually showing less damage than expected, which isn’t quite the same thing. If we’re being honest with ourselves, we haven’t really done very much yet to address climate change, so this can be a cause for hope.
Co-author Dr. Glen Peters of the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Norway, says, “Emissions growth in the next few years will depend on whether energy and climate policies can lock in new trends, and importantly, raise the ambition of emission pledges to be more consistent with the temperature goals of the Paris agreement.”