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A glimmer of hope for carbon emissions?

19 March 2015

2014 was the first non-recession year accompanied by stable carbon emissions, the International Energy Agency announced in a new report on 13th March. Or this was the message many global media players (including the BBC) reported a few days ago.

What did not receive as much attention from the report was the clause “from the energy sector”. In other words, the IEA reported that global emissions did not grow from energy generation. The good news is that this happened in a year of global financial growth, for the first time; not during a recession. The IEA attributes the halt in emissions growth largely to changing patterns of energy generation and consumption in China and OECD countries. Although this is good news, and shows that financial growth can partly be decoupled from carbon emissions, it does not mean that global emissions have ‘stalled’.

Another announcement claimed that the UK even reduced the total carbon emissions by 9.2%, based on an analysis by recent data from DECC. However, this was strongly disputed by a research team in Leeds University. Their report shows how carbon emissions calculations did not take into account goods manufacturing for British consumers. If this was to be taken into account, the UK has not reduced its carbon emissions, and the government targets of 80% emission reduction by 2050, should be reached 10 years earlier!

Success on this scale cannot be accomplished without broad political consensus. The latest IPCC report leaves no room for complacency: we are already late to contain climate change in manageable levels. With general elections coming up in less than two months, followed up by the Paris talks on climate change, this is a real opportunity for British parties to give climate change and carbon emission reduction policies their true place in politics: not as matters of debate with different importance in the political agenda of each party, but as vital topics that will be consistently addressed regardless of electoral cycles.


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