As COP21 climate negotiators debate courses of action to keep global warming to two degrees Celsius, researchers published their estimates that global emissions will decline in 2015. China seems to be the driving factor.
Scientists from Britain's University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Global Carbon Project organization say that emissions of carbon dioxide this year could decrease by as much as 1.6 percent or grow by only 0.5 percent. Their central projection is a decline of 0.6 percent.
"These figures are certainly not typical of the growth trajectory seen since 2000, where the annual growth in emissions was between 2 and 3 percent," UEA researcher Corinne Le Quéré, one of the authors of the study in the journal Nature Climate Change, told news agency Reuters.
China, a crucial factor
The UEA and Global Carbon Project projection for 2015 is partly based on available energy consumption data in China.
"The drop in global emissions this year is mostly caused by China. Their emissions have gone down between 1 and 5 percent due to reduced coal consumption," Glen Peters, senior researcher at the Center for International Climate and Environment Research, Oslo, Norway and a co-author of the new emissions study, told DW in Paris.
In the run-up to the COP21 summit, officials from the world's most populous country pledged that their emissions would peak in 2030. But Peters believes that could happen even sooner.
"They're trying to push the economy to be driven more by consumption-driven growth, and less by heavy industry and construction," the researcher said. "With that, you'd expect lower GDP and economic activity. So there are a few things that indicate emissions to peak around 2030 - but I hope that they'll be able to peak their emissions even before that, maybe by 2020 if they put appropriate policies in place."
Why investing in renewables is not enough
Globally, the picture looks a bit different, though, since developing nations still rely heavily on "climate killers" like coal to advance their economy. Peters points to India, a growing economy that has just announced that it will double domestic coal production in the foreseeable future. Indian officials have also said they plan to invest heavily in solar energy.
But that's not enough.
"The big thing is really burning less fossil fuels," Peters said. "Emissions will only go down if you use less coal and oil and gas."