President Trump told the world he would leave the Paris Agreement on climate change, and he began the process at his first opportunity. But that doesn’t mean the U.S. turned its back on reducing carbon emissions. Instead of the government forcing the issue, a fall in carbon emission growth comes from the private sector through cleaner fuels and easing demand.
A surprise drop in coal use in the United States and Europe has helped to slow the growth of global carbon dioxide emissions this year. Softening demand in China, which burns half the world’s coal, and India also contributed, according to the Global Carbon Budget 2019 report unveiled at the U.N. climate summit in Madrid. The projected growth in carbon dioxide emissions fell to 0.6% in 2019 compared with 2.1% the previous year.
Glen Peters, research director at Oslo-based climate research center CICERO, said:
“The weak growth in carbon dioxide emissions in 2019 is due to an unexpected decline in global coal use, but this drop is insufficient to overcome the robust growth in natural gas and oil consumption.”
Peters added that global C02 emissions from fossil fuels were likely to be more than 4% higher in 2019 than in 2015, the year when the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change was adopted.
The study also estimated that emissions from forest fires and other land-use changes rose in 2019 to 6 billion tonnes of CO2, about 0.8 billion tonnes more than the previous year, driven partly by fires in the Amazon and Indonesia.
Joeri Rogelj, a lecturer in climate change at the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, downplayed the long-term significance of annual fluctuations in emissions growth.
“The small slowdown this year is really nothing to be overly enthusiastic about. If no structural change underlies this slowdown than science tells us that emissions will simply gradually continue to increase on average.”