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CO2 emissions hit record - but increasing more slowly

Oliver Tickell

1st November 2013

On current trends global CO2 emissions may begin to reduce within a few years, thanks to the growth in renewable energy. But rigorous policies in China, the US and the EU will be needed.

Last's year's CO2 emissions hit a record of 34.5 billion tonnes. But hidden behind that headline figure is a slowdown in the rate by which CO2 emissions increase from year to year.

Over the last decade the average rate of increase was 2.9%. In 2011 it was 1.4%. In 2012 it dropped to just 1.1%. If that's sustained, then by 2016 CO2 annual emissions will begin to decline.

The trend is identified in the newly published in the 'Trends in global CO2 emissions: 2013 Report' by the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC).

And the main factor behind the trend is the growth of renewable energy. "Renewable energy has shown an accelerated increase since 2002: the use of hydropower has shown an accelerated growth since 2002 and its output increased by 4.3% from 2011 to 2012."

"The share of the 'new' renewable energy sources solar, wind energy and biofuels also increased at an accelerating speed: from 1992 it took 15 years for the share to double from 0.5% to 1.1%, but only 6 more years to do so again, to 2.4% by 2012."

The reduced increase in emissions "may be the first sign of a more permanent slowdown in the increase in global CO2 emissions, and ultimately of declining global emissions", the report states. But this hope will only be realised if three key conditions are met. 

First, China must achieve its own target for a maximum level of energy consumption by 2015, and its shift to gas with a natural gas share of 10% by 2020. Second the USA must continues a shift in its energy mix towards more gas and renewable energy. Third, the EU must succeed in "restoring the effectiveness of the EU Emissions Trading System to further reduce actual emissions".

Important regional trends were also identified. Just three countries / regions are responsible for 55% of total global CO2 emissions. Of these China (29% share) increased its CO2 emissions by 3% - low compared with annual increases of about 10% over the last decade.

In the USA (16% share) CO2 emissions decreased by 4%, mainly because of a further shift from coal to gas in the power sector.

The European Union (11% share) saw its emissions decrease by 1.6%, mainly due to a decrease in energy consumption ( oil and gas) and a decrease in road freight transport.

The report is based on recent results from the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR) and the latest statistics on energy use and various other activities.

Download Trends in global CO2 emissions: 2013 Report.

 

 

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