Global carbon emissions level off, still too high: report | News | DW | 14.11.2016
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Climate change

Global carbon emissions level off, still too high: report

A new report has shown that world carbon emissions have stayed unchanged over the previous three years. However, the study points out that this is not enough to prevent the effects of global warming.

The annual Global Carbon Budget report, published Monday in the "Earth System Science Data" journal, has concluded that emissions from burning fossil fuels have virtually flatlined for three years in a row.

The report was released to coincide with UN talks on climate change in Marrakesh, Morocco, where nearly 200 countries are taking part.

Carbon dioxide emissions were set to rise just 0.2 percent in 2016 from 2015 levels. "This could be the turning point we have hoped for," said David Reay, professor of carbon management at the University of Edinburgh, in a statement.

Researchers involved with the report were happy that carbon emissions had leveled off while the economy saw strong growth. China, the world's most populous nation and biggest greenhouse gas polluter, helped keep emission levels in check with a reduced use of coal. Chinese emissions were on track to fall 0.5 percent this year.

Emissions in the US, the world's second-highest greenhouse gas emitter, were projected to fall 1.7 percent in 2016, also due to a decrease in coal production.

"This is a great help for tackling climate change but it is not enough," said research leader Corinne Le Quere of the University of East Anglia.

In order for the world to limit average global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels, the study found emissions must do more than level off. The report also pointed out that greenhouse gas emissions in emerging economies continued to rise.

Carbon dioxide is the main man-made greenhouse gas. Climate scientists say it traps heat in the atmosphere, exacerbating extreme weather around the world and leading to heat waves, floods, storms and droughts.

Trump dominates talks

Despite the welcoming news, the talks in Morocco have been dominated by the uncertainties of future US policy under President-elect Donald Trump. Trump has called global warming a hoax and wants the US to abandon the Paris Agreement that limits emissions and instead bolster the US coal and oil industries.

Despite what might happen with the Paris Agreement, which was debated for two decades and went into effect November 4, there is still hope for natural gas, wind and solar energies to continue displacing coal in the US thanks to new technology and lower prices.

"The real Houdini work of freeing our economies from carbon has just begun," said David Reay.

Thousands marched outside of the talks on Sunday, demanding "climate justice” from the attendees. The talks will continue until November 18.

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