Low carbon investments start to bend the global CO2 emissions curve

Reading time: 3 minutes
16 March 2015

LONDON: Global CO2 emissions stalled in 2014 while the global economy grew 3%, the Financial Times reports.

The milestone marks an historical moment because, for the first time in 40 years, pollutant emissions and economic growth are starting to decouple.

The finding comes from a preliminary report by the International Energy Agency, which will publish the full details on June 15.

“What we are seeing here is the cumulative impact of growing levels of investment into low carbon activities, not least in China and other major economies,” remarks Damian Ryan, Head of International Policy, The Climate Group. “Over the last decade we have seen tens and then hundreds of billions of dollars invested each year into renewable energy, energy efficiency and other green growth opportunities, like LED lighting and electric vehicles.

“At some point this spending on the low carbon economy was going to show through and it seems that the IEA’s new figures are the first indication of the seismic shift we need to combat climate change.”

According to these numbers, last year the world emitted 32.3 billion tons of CO2, the same as in 2013. To put this figure in perspective, CO2 emissions in the last decade have grown 2.4% each year. However, much remains to be done.

The International Panel on Climate Change states to avoid the “severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts” of climate change, we must peak global emissions by 2020, reaching zero GHG emissions by the end of the century and zero CO2 emissions by around 2050.

“While the IEA’s announcement is undoubtedly significant, we also need to be mindful that there is still a long way to go,” warns Damian Ryan. “Peaking emissions – if that is indeed the case – is one thing, cutting them by at least half by 2050 and eliminating by the 2100 requires a great deal of further work.

“On the road to Paris it is important not to lose track of the long-term objective or assume that everything is now sorted. Strong policies and measures to further expand investment, drive down technology costs and shift behaviour are all still required.

“These have been the ingredients for the market-driven success we have seen to date and will likely remain so for some time if we are to succeed in building smart, prosperous low carbon economies.”

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