Even though the global economy grew in 2014, new data published in Nature Climate Change shows that CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels grew by just 0.6%. This is a far cry from the 2.4% annual growth that was typical of the decade before. Primarily, the researchers point to a large drop in China’s coal consumption as the main driver of the slowdown, but also note that below-average growth in global demand for oil, coupled with surging interest in renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, are also factors influencing the data.
The data also shows that U.S. and Canadian emissions have dropped by around 1.4% and 0.6% per year from 2005 to 2014. The researchers note that while China is the world’s largest emitter of carbon pollution, the nation has stabilized its energy consumption, using 58% non-fossil fuel sources (hydropower, nuclear, and renewable energy) between 2013 and 2014. The study, Reaching Peak Emissions, projects that due to this increase in cleaner technologies, the drop in China’s emissions could be sustainable in the long term. However, the researchers are quick to stress that long-term commitments to reduce carbon emissions will be required from countries in order to mitigate the threat of climate change.