By Maura Forrest
December 10, 2015
As the Paris climate conference draws to a close, a new study has found that global greenhouse gas emissions could actually drop this year.
The research, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, suggests that global emissions could decline by 0.6 per cent in 2015. The authors attribute the decline largely to a drop in coal consumption in China.
The findings mark an important shift during a decade when emissions have grown by an average of 2.4 per cent per year.
These results are particularly significant because they show carbon emissions decreasing even as the global economy grows. Previously, the report states, stable or declining emissions have only occurred during economic downturns. Those include the breakup of the Soviet Union in the 1990s and the 2008 economic crisis.
But the drop in emissions may represent a temporary anomaly caused by economic instability in China, rather than a real shift away from fossil fuel power.
“As the emerging economies are mostly based on coal, as they grow we are expecting a restart in the emissions,” co-author Corinne Le Quéré told BBC News.
Those economies include India, whose emissions from coal and oil are projected to increase in the coming years. China has also not committed to a peak in its emissions until 2030.
The report follows on the heels of another recent study from the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency that found that 2014 emissions only increased by 0.6 per cent, while the G20 economies grew by about 3.4 per cent.
U.S. President Barack Obama referred to this changing trend at the outset of the climate conference in Paris last week.
“We have proved that strong economic growth and a safer environment no longer have to conflict with one another,” he said, as reported by Nature News.
Though the report attributes much of the drop in emissions to the decline of coal in China, it also points out that the growth of renewables has helped.
In China, 58 per cent of the increase in primary energy consumption in 2013 and 2014 came from non-fossil fuel sources like hydro and nuclear power, the report finds.
It also points to declining emissions between 2005 and 2014 in the European Union, the United States and Canada, caused in part by renewable energy policies.