Even though the global economy managed to grow by 3-percent in 2014, did it managed to do so without an additional increase in carbon dioxide emissions?
By: Ringo Bones
It is a well-established fact that economic activity and energy consumption levels are intimately linked. Energy is critical to modern economies, which is a necessity in creating and maintaining infrastructure, industrial activity, transportation and housing. This means that in general, when the overall income of a nation / state increases so does energy use, which is clear if we look at past trends. And if we don’t use renewable energy sources, then the rise in energy consumption will inevitably lead to more carbon dioxide emissions.
As of late, it seems that our global effort to halt climate change – despite of some holdouts – could finally be paying off since carbon dioxide emissions levels from the energy sector appear to have stalled in 2014 according to a preliminary report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) published back in March 13, 2015, If the data holds up, then this could mark the first time in 40 years that emissions have either remained unchanged or decreased in the absence of an economic crisis.
“This is both a very welcome surprise and a significant one,” IEA Chief Economist Faith Birol said in a statement. “It provides much-needed momentum to negotiators preparing to forge a climate deal in Paris in December, for the first time, greenhouse gas emissions are decoupling from economic growth.”
According to the IEA’s latest findings, global carbon dioxide emissions measured 32.3-billion tones in both 2013 and 2014, despite the fact that the global economy grew by 3-percent in 2014. The International Energy Agency has been gathering data in carbon dioxide emissions for the past 40 years and within this time frame, there have only been three instances in which carbon dioxide emissions either stalled or decrease compared with the previous year and all of these were linked to global economic downturn. For example, a plateau was observed in 1992 after the former Soviet Union collapsed in December 25, 1991.
So what can we attribute to this apparent halt in global carbon dioxide emissions? According to the IEA, a big part of it has to do with a shift in energy use trends in Mainland China and member countries of the Organization for the Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). For example, back in 2014, Mainland China witnessed an increase in the amount of energy produced from renewable sources such as solar and wind with a concomitant decrease in fossil fuel burning.
Although these early data are encouraging, experts have warned that we should not use the findings as an excuse to become complacent or to cease efforts to curb emissions. Instead, decision-makers should use the finalized report – which will be released in June 2015 – to aid the creation of policy measures that will help nations reach climate goals without compromising economic growth.