28 September 2017

Global carbon emissions remained flat once again in 2016

The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (NEAA) published its new report on global greenhouse gas emissions on Thursday, stating that global emissions of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere were stalled in 2016, achieving three-years –in row stability.

Apart from India which saw an increase of 4.7 percent, the world’s five largest emitting countries plus the EU, which account for 63 percent of global GHG emissions, achieved falling or static carbon emissions, mainly due to reduced combustion of coal and increasing integration of renewable energies in the electricity regime.

China’s carbon emissions fell by 0.3 percent, US’s by 2 percent, Russia’s by 2.1 percent and Japan’s by 1.3 percent.

EU’s carbon emissions stayed flat, with the UK, however, constituting the big success story, with a carbon decrease of 6.4 percent due to a steep fall of coal burning.

The CO2 emissions that were added in the atmosphere were more than 35bn tonnes, - an amount that is still considered dangerous for climate change effects.

However, emissions of the rest of the greenhouse gases, which account for about 28 percent of total GHG emissions, rose by approximately 1 percent.

Methane accounts for 19 percent of total GHG emissions and constitutes the second largest GHG category.

With a Global Warming Potential (GWP) much higher than CO2’s, namely 28-36 over 100 years contrary to 1 of CO2, methane emissions increase cause concerns over scientists warning that the meat industry, especially beef, is not at sustainable levels.

On the positive side, the fact that global carbon emissions have been flat since 2014, for three years in a row, is giving a sense of hope that global warming can be actually prevented.

As reported by the Guardian, Prof Lord Nicholas Stern at the London School of Economics and president of the British Academy said: “These results are a welcome indication that we are nearing the peak in global annual emissions of greenhouse gases”.

Jos Olivier, the Chief Researcher for the NEAA report was more cautious with regards to the findings of the report.

He said that “there is no guarantee that CO2 emissions will from now on be flat or descending”, as, for example, a rise in gas prices could result in more coal burning in the US.

Also, scientists are now more confident that the CO2 peak has been reached, and it is not just a temporary halt.

Nicolas Stern commented though, that if the Paris goals are to be met, all countries have to accelerate their emissions reduction.

He also underlined the correlation between the transition to a low-carbon economy and the development drive in poorer countries.

He added: “We can now see clearly that the transition to a low-carbon economy is at the heart of the story of poverty reduction and of the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals”.

The report did not account emissions from land use changes, as they are reportedly more difficult to estimate and vary strongly from year to year.

You can access the full Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (NEAA) report will all the details here

Nicolas Stern will be presenting on the topic of Fostering and Financing Sustainable Infrastructure, focusing on energy, transport, cities, policy and PPPs - within the SDG framework and looking at development and resilience at the 8th Sustainable Innovation Forum(13 & 14 November, Bonn). The Forum, in partnership with the UN Environment, is the largest public to private sector event taking place during COP23 bringing together 600+ carefully handpicked delegates, including : Ministers, Mayors, Blue Chip CEOs, Entrepreneurs and more. To find out more, click here

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