The efforts of developing economies to cut carbon dioxide emissions and tackle climate change are beginning to pay off, according to new research led by the Tyndall Centre at the University of East Anglia, with policies supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency development helping to reduce emissions in 18 developed economies.
According to the research, published in the journal Nature Climate Change last week, University of East Anglia (UEA) researchers analyzed the drivers of decreasing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in a group of 18 developed economies — including France, Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, and Denmark — which together represents 28% of global emissions. The research team analyzed the reasons behind changes in CO2 emissions levels in countries where emissions declined significantly between 2005 and 2015, and showed that the fall in CO2 emissions was mainly due to the ever-increasing role of renewable energy over that of fossil fuels, as well as a decrease in energy usage.
Conversely, however, the decrease in energy usage in these countries was also partly explained by lower economic growth naturally reducing the demand for energy following the global financial crisis of 2008-2009.
More importantly, however, is the finding that countries where CO2 emissions had decreased the most were those countries with the largest number of energy and climate policies in place.
“Our findings suggest that policies to tackle climate change are helping to decrease emissions in many countries,” said Lead researcher Prof Corinne Le Quéré, of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at UEA. “This is good news, but this is just the start. There is a long way to go to cut global emissions down to near zero, which is what is needed to stop climate change. Deploying renewable energy worldwide is a good step but by itself it is not enough, fossil fuels also have to be phased out.”
“New scientific research on climate change tends to ring the alarm bells ever more loudly,” added Dr Charlie Wilson, also from UEA. “Our findings add a thin sliver of hope. It is possible for countries to peak and then decline their emissions year in year out.
“Eighteen countries so far have shown us how concerted policy ambition and action on energy efficiency, renewables, and climate targets can work. Now we must make sure these early precedents become the rule not the exception. This is a huge global challenge.”
The researchers also compared countries with declining emissions with countries with increasing emissions and found that policies encouraging energy efficiency were linked to emissions decreases across all countries. The research also showed that policies encouraging renewable energy were linked to cuts in emissions, but primarily in developed economies with decreasing emissions, not across the board like energy efficiency policies.