Developed Countries Reduce CO2 With Less Fossil Fuel, More Efficiency

Efforts to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and tackle climate change in developed economies are beginning to pay off, according to research led by the Tyndall Centre at the University of East Anglia (UEA).

The study suggests that policies supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency are helping to reduce emissions in 18 developed economies. The group of countries represents 28% of global emissions and includes the U.K., U.S., France and Germany.

The research team analyzed the reasons behind changes in CO2 emissions in countries where emissions declined significantly between 2005 and 2015. The findings, published in Nature Climate Change, show that the fall in CO2 emissions was mainly due to renewable energy replacing fossil fuels and to decreasing energy use.

However, the decrease in energy use was partly explained by lower economic growth reducing the demand for energy following the global financial crisis of 2008-2009. Significantly, countries where CO2 emissions decreased the most were those with the largest number of energy and climate policies in place.

The researchers compared countries with declining emissions with countries where emissions increased. They found that policies encouraging energy efficiency were linked to cuts in emissions across all countries. They also found that policies that encouraged renewable energy were linked to cuts in emissions, but mostly in developed economies with decreasing emissions only, not elsewhere.

The data suggests that efforts to reduce emissions are underway in many countries, but these efforts need to be expanded and enhanced to limit climate change to well below 2°C of warming, in line with the Paris Agreement.

Global CO2 emissions would need to decrease by about a quarter by 2030 to limit climate change well below 2°C, and emissions would need to decrease by half to stay below 1.5°C. Global CO2 emissions increased by 2.2% per year on average between 2005 and 2015.

The authors argue that “untangling” the reasons underlying recent changes in emissions is critical to guide efforts to tackle climate change.

“Drivers of declining CO2 emissions in 18 developed economies”, Corinne Le Quéré, Jan Ivar Korsbakken, Charlie Wilson, Jale Tosun, Robbie Andrew, Robert J. Andres, Josep G Canadell, Andrew Jordan, Glen P Peters and Detlef van Vuuren, is published in Nature Climate Change. —University of East Anglia

Learn more in the related infographic: “Decarbonisation to meet the Paris Agreement”.

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