Carbon emissions falling in developed economies

New research from the University of East Anglia shows that efforts to cut carbon emissions through decreased fossil fuel and energy use are beginning to pay off.

A research team from the University of East Anglia analysed the reasons why CO2 emissions have declined significantly in 18 developed countries between 2005 and 2015. The group of countries, which includes the UK, US, France and Germany, represents 28 per cent of global emissions.

The findings show that the drop in CO2 emissions was mainly due renewable energy replacing fossil fuels and decreased energy use. While some of that decreased energy use can be attributed to the lower economic growth following the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, the researchers nonetheless found that the countries with the largest number of energy and climate measures experienced the largest decrease in CO2 emissions. They also found that policies promoting the use of renewable energy were linked to cuts in emissions, but mostly in developed economies.

“Our findings suggest that polices to tackle climate change are helping to decrease emissions in many countries,” said Corinne Le Quéré, lead author of the study and a professor at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia.

“This is good news, but this is just the start. There is a long way to go to cut global emissions down to near zero, which is what is needed to stop climate change. Deploying renewable energy worldwide is a good step but by itself it is not enough, fossil fuels also have to be phased out,” Le Quéré explained.

According to the researchers, global CO2 emissions need to decrease by about a quarter by 2030 if the world is to limit climate change well below 2C, and decrease by half to stay below 1.5C. However, global CO2 emissions have in fact increased by 2.2 per cent per year on average between 2005 and 2015.

This suggests that “the rapid rollout of renewable energy has so far not been sufficient to arrest the growth in fossil fuel use”, added co-author Glen Peters of the CICERO Center for International Climate Research in Oslo.

“Energy and climate policy has been successful at supporting renewables and energy efficiency, but to realise meaningful emission reductions supporting policies are needed to penalise the emission of carbon dioxide,” Peters said.

Image credit: Kim Seng via Flickr

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