Developed countries’ efforts to cut CO2 emissions and tackle climate change are starting to pay off, according to a leading climate change research centre.
The study by the Tyndall Centre at the University of East Anglia (UEA) has suggested that policies to support renewable energy and energy efficiency are helping to reduce emissions in 18 developed countries – including the UK, US, France and Germany – which together account for 28% of global emissions.
The researchers say while this shows that global efforts to reduce emissions are working, existing measures must be expanded and strengthened if the world hopes to meet the 2C climate change target agreed in the Paris Agreement.
Prof Corinne Le Quéré, who led the research said: ‘Our findings suggest that policies to tackle climate change are helping to decrease emissions in many countries. 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.’
The researchers behind the study looked at reasons behind changes in CO2 emissions in several countries where emissions fell significantly between 2005 and 2015.
Widespread replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy and decreasing energy use were the biggest reasons behind countries’ smaller carbon footprints, they found, noting that the global financial crash of 2008-09 played a small part in reducing energy demand.
The researchers found that policies encouraging energy efficiency lowered emissions in countries across the board, with emissions decreasing most in countries which had the largest number of energy and climate policies in place.
While renewable energy policies were also linked with lower emissions, these were mostly effective in developed economies whose CO2 emissions were already decreasing, suggesting there is more work for countries to do to counteract a growth in fossil fuel use.
‘Eighteen countries so far have shown us how concerted policy ambition and action on energy efficiency, renewables, and climate targets can work,’ said Charlie Wilson, also of UEA.
‘Now we must make sure these early precedents become the rule not the exception. This is a huge global challenge.’
The authors of the study say that understanding the reasons behind changes in global CO2 emissions will help hugely in guiding efforts to limit climate change.
They added that while policies supporting renewables and energy efficiency have been successful, more policies must penalise the emission of CO2 if meaningful improvements are to be made.
It is estimated that global CO2 emissions would need to decrease by a quarter by 2020 to keep climate change well below 2C, and by half to stay below 1.5C. Global CO2 emissions increased by 2.2% per year on average between 2015 and 2015 and rose globally in 2017 and 2018.