Among these factors are the economic recession which decreased the emissions of the global industrial sector but also the various commitments of the United States, the European Union and China.
In the Washington Post, Lester Brown noted that US emissions went down by no less than nine percent over the last two years, ending a century of increasing emissions.
Even if the economic recession is indeed the main explaination for both facts, there are others explanations which are more pertaining to governmental actions around the world. Mother Nature Network notes :
Falling industrial output is the biggest factor in the drop, but carbon trading schemes and lack of financing for new coal-fired power plants have also played a role. Europe’s target to cut emissions by 20 percent by 2020, China’s energy efficiency policies and U.S. car emission standards are cited as having a particularly notable effect.
The New York Times provides us more details :
Global carbon emissions are expected to post their biggest drop in more than 40 years this year as the global recession froze economic activity and slashed energy use around the world.
The decline comes as political leaders are struggling to come up with a common approach to dealing with climate change.
The main factor behind this year’s drop in emissions is the slowdown in industrial activity and trade around the world, according to a study due to be released in November by the International Energy Agency.
But the energy agency, which provides policy advice and research to industrialized nations, found that government actions had also contributed to the drop in emissions. The agency said it expected to see global carbon emissions fall 2.6 percent this year.
The projected decline was first reported Monday by The Financial Times.
(…)Even if temporary, a global reduction in emissions could allow advocates of stringent new limits on carbon dioxide to argue that continued progress is available using existing technology and switching to cleaner fuels, like natural gas.
Regarding the US situation, Lester Brown wrote in the Washington Post :
The United States has entered a new energy era, ending a century of rising carbon emissions. As the U.S. delegation prepares for the international climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December, it does so from a surprisingly strong position, one based on a dramatic 9 percent drop in U.S. carbon emissions over the past two years and the promise of further huge reductions.
(…) Even though part of this decline in carbon emissions was caused by the recession and higher gasoline prices, part of it came from gains in energy efficiency and shifts to carbon-free sources of energy, including record amounts of new wind-generating capacity.
Another explanation for this could be the switch from coal to natural gas for electricity generation. As I read in CleanTechnica :
Apparently many modern electric power plants that are coal powered can also use natural gas. So, when the price of natural gas came down in the US, more power stations switched to the cheaper fuel.
(…) with the combination of its environmental advantage over other fossil fuels, and its recently discovered abundant supplies; natural gas is the preferred fuel.Use of coal has gone down 14% in the last year. Seven states accounted for half the drop; Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, North Carolina, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Texas.
All this are good news, but we should keep in mind that we have to find cleaner solutions for our industries and lifestyles. Indeed, emissions are due to go back up as early as 2010…
[Image credit : Flickr, Taras Kalapun]