Global carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels did not grow in 2015 and are projected to rise only slightly in 2016, marking three years of almost no growth, according to researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Global Carbon Project. Decreased use of coal in China is the main reason behind the 3-year slowdown.
The projected rise of only 0.2% for 2016 marks a clear break from the rapid emissions growth of 2.3% per year in the decade to 2013, with just 0.7% growth seen in 2014. The new data shows emissions growth remained below 1% despite GDP growth exceeding 3%. Detailed data were made available in the open-access data journal Earth System Science Data (ESSD). This is the fifth update of the global carbon budget published by ESSD in the living data format.
This third year of almost no growth in emissions is unprecedented at a time of strong economic growth. This is a great help for tackling climate change but it is not enough. Global emissions now need to decrease rapidly, not just stop growing.—Corinne Le Quéré, Director of the Tyndall Centre at UEA, who led the data analysis
The projection for 2015 is based on available energy consumption data for China and the USA, as well as on forecast economic growth for the rest of the world. In 2014, renewable energy sources saw a record increase in capacity and their impact is on track to be even higher in 2015.
China—the biggest emitter of CO2 at 29%—saw emissions decrease by 0.7% in 2015, compared to growth of more than 5% per year the previous decade. A further reduction of 0.5% is projected for 2016, though with large uncertainties.
The US, the second-biggest emitter of CO2 at 15%, also reduced its coal use while increasing its oil and gas consumption and saw emissions decrease 2.6% last year. US emissions are projected to decrease by 1.7% in 2016.
The EU’s 28 member states are the third largest emitter, with 10% of emissions. The EU’s CO2 emissions went up 1.4% in 2015, in contrast with longer term decreases.
India contributed 6.3% of all global CO2 emissions, with their emissions increasing 5.2% in 2015, continuing a period of strong growth.
Although the break in emissions rise ties in with the pledges by countries to decrease emissions until 2030, it falls short of the reductions needed to limit climate change well below 2 degrees Celsius.
The Global Carbon Budget analysis also shows that, in spite of a lack of growth in emissions, the growth in atmospheric CO2 concentration was a record-high in 2015, and could be a record again in 2016 due to weak carbon sinks.
Data and studies are research outputs of the Global Carbon Project, which has the scientific goal of developing a complete picture of the global carbon cycle, including both its biophysical and human dimensions together with the interactions and feedbacks between them.