Carbon countdown

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Published: March 23, 2015 12:34:01 AM

Delinking carbon emissions from economic growth is becoming increasingly important

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has indicated that global CO2 emissions flatlined in 2014—unchanged from the 2013 level of 32.3 billion tonnes. Emissions stalled, for the first time in 40 years, in a year that didn’t see a global economic downturn. Previously, as per IEA data, emissions either fell or stalled just thrice, in years that saw global economic weaknesses—in the early 1980s, 1992 and 2009. Contrastingly, the world economy grew by 3% in 2014. There have been suggestions that growth without emission was possible because of accelerated adoption of green technologies in the past few years. Some see it as an effect of incremental steps taken to combat GHG emissions over the years. IEA sees it as a result of greater generation of clean energy, specifically by China and OECD—China reported greater generation of power from renewable sources and lesser from coal, resulting in a 1% decline in emissions.

Experts are sceptical of China’s reporting—a research paper published in the Nature found China under-reported its emissions by 1.4 billion tonnes in 2010—more so given its climate change control pact with the US talks of emissions peaking only by 2030. But the fact is that delinking carbon emissions from economic growth is becoming increasingly important. The US cut its emissions by 7.7% between 2008 and 2013—though it largely hinges on the fracking boom in the country that has led to cheap natural gas replacing coal in power generation. Similarly, Australia depended on stepping up hydropower generation and a now-repealed carbon tax to beat down emissions by over 4% between 2008 and 2013, while France cut emissions by 5.7% in the early 1980s by rapidly taking to nuclear power. The short point is, given the global efforts, India’s saffron revolution, focusing on solar power generation, must get underway soon.

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