As the COP21 talks enter their most critical phase the news has come that global emissions are set to fall this year. To those of us that went to Paris with modest optimism this is good news. This is despite more robust economic growth in 2015. Why are global emissions on a downward trend? The report does not seem to give an answer but notes the success of renewables such as wind and solar. I would as Tim Flannery wrote in the Guardian a few weeks ago also stress the importance of lifestyle changes. Millions have made small lifestyle alterations such as fitting LED’s and cycling more. These small changes have been knocked by many (including me), but add up. This in my view can be seen in the emissions fall. Evidence for this and the role of renewables is found in the fact that gas and oil demand has peaked in the OCED countries (and now China).
In fact the only major country or economic grouping with increasing emissions is India (along with the “rest of the world”). India’s role in climate change and peak oil (as we wrote a few weeks ago) is critical. If India cuts its oil and coal use then climate change can be conquered and the oil price will stay low. If not the opposite.
Finally does this mean that economic growth and global emissions are decoupled? This is a complex area we covered in some detail in our book and I would recommend you read what we had to say there. However, it seems unlikely that energy use and economic growth can ever be completely decoupled. This view is based on the logic that endless growth is not possible due to resource limitations. However there is much to find encouragement in the current situation and to pray for a good outcome for COP21.