In what could lift the mood of negotiators at the Paris climate summit, scientists have found that carbon emissions are set to decline this year. China’s slowing economy and efforts to limit greenhouse gas pollution probably led to the decline, according to a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change. Corinne Le Quere of the University of East Anglia, the lead author of the study, said the carbon emissions have stalled, and they could even decline slightly.
Carbon emissions likely to fall 0.6% in 2015
Global greenhouse gas emissions have risen more than 40% since 1990, largely due to increased use of fossil fuel by emerging economies like China, India, and others. The study was published as representatives from 190 countries have gathered in Paris to hammer out a deal to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial times. To achieve that target by the end of this century, UN researchers estimate that carbon emissions should peak this decade, and then start falling.
In 2014, greenhouse gas emissions increased by 0.6%, which was much lower than 2.4% average annual growth in the previous decade. For 2015, scientists estimate that carbon emissions would range between an increase of 0.5% to a decline of 1.6%. The most likely scenario was a 0.6% decline. However, Le Quere warned that the pause could be temporary.
More countries investing in renewable energy
The drop is evidence of changing behavior as countries invest more in renewable energy. Whether it continues to decline further will depend on fossil fuel consumption in China and other countries, as well as how effectively the renewable sources of energy are utilized. China is the world’s largest polluter with 21.1% share followed by the US, which accounts for 13% of global carbon emissions.
Todd Stern, who leads the US delegation at the Paris climate summit, welcomed the findings as “good news.” However, he said the report would not be a major factor in negotiations. The higher emissions from emerging countries have begun to be offset by developed countries that turn to the wind and solar energy.