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For the first time in history, CO2 emissions decouple from economic growth

Historically, CO2 emissions follow the world’s economy, either dropping during recession or raising with growth. Today, we’re expelling more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than ever; not coincidentally, we’re also experiencing the greatest wealth ever. Not anymore, however. According to the International Energy Agency, for the first time in 40 years of monitoring, CO2 emissions flat lined relative to the previous year, while the economy grew. In effect, we’re experiencing the first carbon decoupling from the economy, a sign that the world is shifting away from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources.

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Image: Wikimedia

Previously, CO2 emissions had dropped relative to past years in only three instances: early 1980s (peak oil), 1992 and 2009. But all of these periods where associated with times of economic weakness, according to the IEA. Last year’s decoupling can be explained by China’s 2.9% drop in coal use (the first drop this century), as well as OECD countries’ energy efficiency and renewable energy measures. The economy grew by 7% in the OECD space, while emissions fell 4%.

This decoupling of emissions from economic growth is said to be due to the use of less fossil fuels, more renewable energy and increased energy savings. The main emitters, accounting for 55% of the global total, were China, the US and the European Union. In 2013, emissions from China increased by 3% but this was a significant slowdown compared to annual increases of around 10% over the past decade.

The news couldn’t have arrived at a better time considering the world’s governments will meet in Paris to discuss a CO2 cut at a global level. Hopefully, an agreement might be reached to curb emissions worldwide, in addition to the measures already announced independently: 40% less CO2 by 2030 in the EU,  26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025 in the USA, and peak emissions for China by 2030 (China surpassed the EU in per capita emissions last year).

All this “provides much-needed momentum to negotiators preparing to forge a global climate deal in Paris in December,” explained IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol, who was just named the next IEA Executive Director. “For the first time, greenhouse gas emissions are decoupling from economic growth.”

via Think Progress

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