Originally Published on the ECOreport
For the first time in forty years, the world’s C02 emissions have been held in check. Though they continue to rise in North America, China’s decreased for the first time in recorded history and Europe’s emissions decreased another 5% in 2014.
EU’s CO2 Emissions Decreased Another 5% in 2014
According to the Carbon Brief, the EU’s energy usage is at 1990 levels despite “a 6% increase in population and a 45% expansion of economic output.” This has been possible because of better building insulation, “improvements in product energy efficiency, uptake of renewables, vehicle fuel efficiency standards and changes in the structure of the economy.” The EU’s reached 17% below the 1990 benchmark, set by the Kyoto Accord, in 2013. Last year there was also a mild winter.
Niklas Schinerl, a climate and energy expert at Greenpeace, warns, “The share of lignite – which is very harmful to the climate – in the energy mix is still very high,” he added.
The leaders in today’s announcement were Slovakia (-14.1%), Denmark (-10.7%), Slovenia (-9.1%), the United Kingdom (-8.7%) and France (-8.2%).
Several factors contributed to Denmark ‘s success. Thanks to the mild winter, energy consumption was at its lowest level in decades. The Danish Energy Agency reported that coal usage 17.3%, natural gas 14.2%. The “consumption of renewable energy increased by 1.6%” to 25.2%, “primarily as a result of the expansion of wind power and solar energy.”
The Carbon Brief reported that the United Kingdom’s coal usage has been cut back to levels not seen since the 1850’s. Renewables provided 15% of the electricity in 2014.
Europe’s powerhouse, Germany, lagged slightly behind the pack, reducing its emissions only 4%. This is 27% below 1990 levels.
Natural gas emissions decreased 13%, hard coal 8% and renewable energy usage increased 3%. Germany obtained 28% of its’ electricity from renewables last year.
“Much of the reduction was in 2014 due to the mild winter. But we owe part of the decline to real progress on climate protection,” said Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks.
China’s Emissions Miracle
Substantial progress has been made in China, where people have been talking about a new miracle. In the fastest industrialization of World history, China has been produced more than half of the world’s emissions for the past decade. These have continued to increase until last year, when they dropped 5%.
The International Energy Agency explained this success as “greater generation of electricity from renewable sources, such as hydropower, solar and wind, and less burning of coal.”
US Attempts To Curtail Emissions
President Barack Obama’s attempts to curtail emissions from coal-fired power plants are being resisted by a resurgent the Republican party. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently wrote every governor in the US, urging them to not comply with Environmental Protection Agency regulations.
The US Energy Information Administration credited the 0.7% rise in American emissions during 2014 to a 2.4% increase in GDP. This ratio has greatly improved over the past decade, though not on par with the EU. US emissions are currently around +6% above 1990 levels.
The two most reluctant parties at the Schloss Elmau talks were Japan and Canada. They forced the G7 to adopt the modest goal of phasing out of fossil fuel combustion by 2100, by refusing to agree to 2050.
Japan’s emissions rose 1.2% for the fiscal year ending March 2014. This was primarily blamed on the shutdown of the nation’s nuclear reactors following the Fukushima disaster. Nuclear energy previously provided 26% of the nation’s electricity. Emissions are now 10.8% above 1990 levels.
The Weakest Emissions Goals in the G7
A Green Party press release claims Canada’s goals “are the weakest in the G7” and neither the Conservatives or Liberals have a plan to achieve them. They are “leaving it up to the provinces.”
The nation made some progress during the years that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government was a minority. There was a significant drop in 2009.
After Harper’s Conservatives won a majority of seats, in 2011, Canada withdrew from the Kyoto Accord. Emissions have been climbing ever since.
With so many fingers pointed at the oil sands, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers points out that emissions per barrel of oil sands crude has dropped 30% over the same period. They also claim that, in 2013, the oil sands only produced 8.5% of the nation’s emissions.
Canada’s two largest provinces have both shown it is possible for North Americans to reduce their emission below 1990 levels. Ontario’s (-5.6%) biggest gains have come through eliminating coal usage. Quebec credits its’ success (-7%) to obtaining 97% of its energy generation from renewables. This is primarily hydro-power, but the wind sector is expanding.
Three provinces with comparatively bad emissions records, compared to 1990, are:
- Saskatchewan (+72%)
- Alberta (+50%)
- BC (+21.7%)
Photo Credits: London Air pollution Level 9 Very High April 3 2014 by David Holt via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License); Graph from Eurostat Press Release; Decrease in Danish Energy Consumption Graph from Danish Energy Agency; Canadian CO2 Emissions courtesy Environment Canada; Pollution in Pictou, NS, in 2009 by Ann Baekken via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)