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Global CO2 emissions are flat for 3rd year, but need decline

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Scott Waldman, E&E News reporter Monday, March 20, 2017  Full story here

For the third year in a row, the carbon dioxide emissions that drive climate change worldwide have been level. The emissions pause is particularly noteworthy because it comes despite a growing global economy, the International Energy Agency announced. That’s a sign that carbon emissions are “decoupling” from the economy as other sources of energy come online.

Researchers measured 32.1 metric gigatons of CO2 emissions in 2016, the same as in the previous two years. That’s even as the global economy grew 3.1 percent. The stagnation, according to IEA, is due to the growth of renewable energy, more switching from coal to natural gas, improved energy efficiency programs, and additional nuclear facilities coming online.

… Emissions declined in both the United States and China, and stayed level in Europe. That’s because of increased natural gas usage and a reduction in coal usage in the United States and China. Dangerous smog levels in major cities have also forced the Chinese government to crack down on air pollution. In the United States, emissions dropped 3 percent, to the lowest level since 1992, as the economy grew 1.6 percent. In China, emissions declined 1 percent, while the economy grew 6.7 percent. The country also expanded the reliance of its electrical grid on hydro and wind sources as well as nuclear.

Three years without emissions growth is notable, but it needs to be turned into a decline, said Glen Peters, a senior researcher at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research-Oslo in Norway. He said the ultimate goal is to get to zero, and there’s only about 50 years left to hit that target.

“It’s a meaningful first start, some baby steps; we’re starting to turn around and look at walking in the right direction,” he said. “If emissions are going to go down, they’ve got to go flat first, so this is the first step, so the important thing is to make sure they don’t start rising again. The next thing is to concentrate on making sure they go downwards.”…

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