EU Science Hub

Global growth in CO2 emissions stagnates

City scape with large industrial chimney
Nov 25 2015

After a decade of rapid growth in global CO2 emissions, which increased at an average annual rate of 4%, much smaller increases were registered in 2012 (0.8%), 2013 (1.5%) and 2014 (0.5%). In 2014, when the emissions growth was almost at a standstill, the world's economy continued to grow by 3%.

The trend over the last three years thus sends an encouraging signal on the decoupling of CO2 emissions from global economic growth. However, it is still too early to confirm a positive global trend. For instance India, with its emerging economy and large population, increased its emissions by 7.8% and became the fourth largest emitter globally.

The EU continues to show leadership on CO2 emission reductions

In 2014, despite an overall increase of 1.4% in the GDP for the European Union, the EU decreased its CO2 emissions by 5.4% with respect to 2013. This comes after reductions also in the two previous years, although the reductions in 2012 and 2013 were at much lower rates (-0.4% and -1.4%). The results illustrate the continued decoupling of Europe's economic growth from CO2 emissions. Total EU CO₂ emissions are now 23% below the 1990 level.

The study suggests three main reasons for this drop: 1) a 4.5% emissions reduction from industrial facilities and power plants that are part of the EU Emissions Trading System, 2) a mild winter which resulted in a 10% lower heating demand and 3) a 0.5% reduction in oil consumption for transport.

Significant reductions in national CO2 emissions were recorded for Slovakia (10.6%), the United Kingdom (9.0%), Denmark (8.8%), France (8.4%), Italy (7.7%), Finland (6.9%), Greece (6.3%), Austria (6.0%), Germany (5.6%), the Netherlands (5.3%), Portugal (3.6%) and Poland (3.4%). Of the 28 EU Member States, only Bulgaria and Cyprus increased their emissions, by 6.9% and 0.5%, respectively.

For the first time, the EU's share of global CO2 emissions fell below 10%. Responsible for 9.6% of the global emissions, the EU is still the third largest emitter globally after China (30%) and the United States (15%).

Global emissions stalled in 2014

Apart from the EU, other countries such as Japan (-2.6%) Russia (-1.5%), and Australia (- 2.1%) also reduced their emissions. In total, only a 0.5% increase in global CO2 emissions was recorded in 2014 with respect to the previous year. The total emissions from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes amounted to 35.7 billion tonnes CO2 in 2014, compared to 35.3 billion tonnes in 2013.

China emissions also slowed down

Although it remains the largest emitter world-wide, China has also managed to slow down its emissions growth. After the surge in CO2 emissions recorded over the past 10 years, China's emissions increased by only 0.9% in 2014, the same rate as the United States. A big part of the overall curbing of global emissions can therefore be attributed to China's structural changes in its economy favouring less energy-intensive services, a high value-added manufacturing industry and investments into more low-carbon energy options.

US per capita emissions among highest

The United States still has very high emissions per head of population, with 16.5 tonnes CO2 per capita in 2014. This is more than twice as high as those of China (7.5 tonnes CO2 per capita) and the EU (7.1 tonnes CO2 per capita).

Background information

These results were published in a report by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (EC-JRC) and PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.