Carbon Emissions and Economic Growth Call Off Their Relationship


In a recent lecture at Georgetown University as part of the Global Futures Initiative, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim laid out five ways to reduce the drivers of climate change. He stated, “We have to keep the economy going – there is no turning back on growth. What we have to do is decouple growth from carbon emissions.”

Well, good news. Data collected by the International Energy Agency (IEA) for its report CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion 2014 indicates that worldwide carbon dioxide emissions in 2014 were the same as in 2013, even though the global economy grew by 3.3 per cent. This marks the first time in 40 years that greenhouse gas emissions did not rise with economic growth.

Although one year’s results do not make a trend, The Economist notes, “… the IEA’s finding is remarkable. It happened without either a climate-change treaty or global carbon price.”

Why is this happening? The IEA credits China’s shift to more electricity generation from renewable sources, which has lead to reduced coal consumption, and greater energy efficiency and use of renewable energy in OECD countries. In relation to the latter, the IEA points to vehicle fuel efficiency or emissions standards around the world as playing an important role in carbon emissions reductions. Globally, new cars in 2014 were 16 per cent more fuel-efficient than those in 2000.

Canada is one such country that passed federal light- and heavy-duty vehicle greenhouse gas emissions regulations within the last five years. Pollution Probe was integral to this process.


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Pollution Probe

Pollution Probe is a national, non-profit organization that exists to improve the health and well-being of Canadians by advancing policy that achieves positive, tangible environmental change.

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