Friday, 1 November 2013

A little glimmer of optimism about carbon emissions

A report from the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency out this week (Trends in global CO2 emissions) shows that while actual global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) reached a new record of 34.5 billion tonnes in 2012, the increase in global CO2 emissions in that year slowed down to 1.1%. This, said the agency, was less than half the average annual increase of 2.9% over the last decade.
This is remarkable, as the global economy grew by 3.5%. This development signals a shift towards less fossil-fuel-intensive activities, more use of renewable energy and increased energy saving. Increases in fossil-fuel consumption in 2012 were 2.2% for natural gas, 0.9% for oil products, and 0.6% for coal.
The share of the ‘new’ renewable energy sources solar, wind and biofuel 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 report raised the possibility of a more permanent slowdown in emissions:
The small increase in emissions of 1.1% in 2012 (including a downward correction of 0.3% for it being a leap year) may be the first sign of a more permanent slowdown in the increase in global CO2 emissions, and ultimately of declining global emissions, if (a) China achieves 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; (b) the United States continues a shift in its energy mix towards more gas and renewable energy; and (c) in the European Union, Member States agree on restoring the effectiveness of the EU Emissions Trading System to further reduce actual emissions.”
Australia’s place in the global scheme of things was shown in this graphic from the report:
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