[The new figures suggest that there is a chance that global emissions have already peaked and may be starting a long-term decline, experts said Monday, which would be an important inflection point for the international effort to limit the risks of global warming.]
By Justin Gillis and Chris Buckley
A wind farm in
that emissions will stop growing by about 2030.
Credit Carlos Barria/Reuters
LE BOURGET, France — Industrial emissions of greenhouse gases rose only slightly in 2014 and appear to be on track to decline in 2015, according to new data that raise the possibility that a period of rapid global emissions growth may be coming to an end.
The decline of 0.6 percent projected for this year, should it come to pass, would be highly unusual at a time when the global economy is growing. The projection contrasts sharply with emissions growth that averaged 2.4 percent a year over the last decade, and sometimes topped 3 percent.
The new figures were released at the climate conference here by the Global Carbon Project, a collaboration that studies emissions, and published simultaneously in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Past emissions declines have usually been linked to economic distress, such as the global financial panic of 2009 and the Russian economic meltdown of the late 1990s.
The new figures suggest that there is a chance that global emissions have already peaked and may be starting a long-term decline, experts said Monday, which would be an important inflection point for the international effort to limit the risks of global warming.
But the experts with the Global Carbon Project said they did not consider that to be likely.
Instead, emissions growth may resume as the Chinese economy recovers from a period of slow growth and as
pursues a plan to double its burning of coal
in power plants, part of a program to bring 300 million poor villagers onto the
power grid. India
are at the same level as India in the 1990s,” said Glen P. Peters, an
analyst with a climate center in China who spoke at a news conference here. Dr. Peters
added that in coming years, Oslo “could actually dominate the global growth
in the way that India has done in the past.” China
Still, there is some hope that emissions growth in coming years will be slower than in the last decade, Dr. Peters and other experts said, especially as countries start acting on climate pledges they have made this year.
Climate negotiators are meeting in a huge conference here in Le Bourget, a
suburb, hoping to reach a deal by late in
the week that commits virtually every country in the world to taking at least
some steps to battle global warming. Paris
The new data show that industrial emissions rose 0.6 percent in 2014. That year was thehottest in recorded history, but it is almost certain to be exceeded by 2015.
China accounts for more than a quarter of the world’s industrial emissions of greenhouse gases, and the new figures reflect broad shifts in the Chinese economy that led to lower emissions growth in 2014, as well as a likelihood of declining emissions in 2015.
Chinese growth has slowed markedly, the country is transitioning toward a service economy, and it is pushing hard on renewable power as a way to limit greenhouse gases.
’s consumption of coal grew by almost
threefold from 2000 to 2013, and it now consumes about half the coal used
The Chinese government cleared away some doubts about the reliability of its energy data when it recently released sharply revised statistics that showed that coal consumption between 2000 and 2013, measured by energy content, was almost 10 percent higher than previously thought.
That upward revision has made the recent slowdown in coal demand appear even starker, and reinforced the conviction of some experts that Chinese demand has peaked or soon will.
In the first 10 months of this year,
’s coal production fell 3.6 percent compared
with the same time last year, a state planning official, Liang Weiliang, said
this month. China
“We must be fully prepared for the eventuality that clean energy will not only take up the growth in energy consumption, but will also increasingly displace current stocks” of power plants, Mr. Liang said at a meeting of coal traders.
The Chinese government has vowed that emissions will stop growing by about 2030, although the recent slowdown has convinced more scientists that a peak by about 2025 is feasible.
But others argue that
’s appetite for coal will revive when the
economy picks up, even if the days of double-digit growth are over. Despite the
Communist Party leaders’ vows to clean up air pollution, local governments have
promoted plans to build many more coal-fired power plants. This year, 155
proposed plants have received preliminary or full approval, said a recent
report by Greenpeace East Asia. China
“There is the shifting structure of the economy and the shifting structure of energy consumption, but it’s also the low point in an economic cycle,” Zou Ji, a deputy director general of
’s China for Climate Change Strategy and
International Cooperation, said in an interview. “I’m not optimistic that we’re
near a peak.” National Center
Even if China’s coal demand keeps falling, its growing demand for oil and gas are likely to continue driving overall carbon dioxide emissions upward, although more slowly than before, Wang Tao, a researcher on energy and climate change issues at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing, said in an interview.
“It’s not surprising if we’re talking about a reduction in coal consumption, but overall emissions would be another issue,” Mr. Wang said. “It’s likely it will be bumping back. We will probably still maintain a lower growth rate of emissions for maybe years to come.”
Justin Gillis reported from Le Bourget, and Chris Buckley from