CO2 Emissions Reach All-Time High, But Growth is Slowing

First, the bad news: Global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and industrial processes (cement and metal production) reached an all-time high in 2013. The upside? The rate of emission growth is slowing down for the second year in a row. The top offenders remain China, the U.S. and the EU.

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First, the bad news: Global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and industrial processes (cement and metal production) reached an all-time high in 2013.

The upside? The rate of emission growth is slowing down for the second year in a row.

In its annual, “Trends in Global CO2 Emissions,” PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency reported that global CO2 emissions in 2013 reached a new record of 35.3 billion tons, a 2 percent increase over 2012. This trend was on par with the 2011-2012 increase of 1.7 percent, but smaller than the average increase of 3.8 percent between 2003-2011.

“The global increase in CO2 emissions largely reflects the increase in fossil energy consumption, driven mainly by emerging economies with a steadily increasing energy use over the past decade,” the report states.

The top offenders remain China, the U.S. and the EU, who account for more than 50 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions. While fossil fuel consumption plays a significant part on the whole, in each region the underlying causes for emissions vary. And while bustling economies with booming industries have often sent CO2 emissions soaring, government actions have begun to mitigate this coupling trend.  

For example, China has taken measures to steer usage away from coal and increase hydropower. In the U.S. policy changes has helped increase natural gas production over to coal as well.

“The recent global emissions trend shows national policies collectively do reduce the rate of increase of global CO2 emissions,” the report says.

While these developments look promising, the report says, “Further investment in renewable or nuclear energy will be needed for a less carbon-intensive energy supply and a higher energy efficiency is required to substantially mitigate climate change.”

As the report states, vital questions remain: How will global economic and technological trends continue to impact emissions? Will global CO2 emissions ever level off? More importantly, will they ever start to drop away?

Check out their interactive infograph to learn more here.

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