According to research, worldwide greenhouse gas emissions will fall in 2015. If correct, this will be the first time they have fallen during a period of global economic growth.
The current decline in emissions is thought to be due to a decline in coal consumption by Chinese manufacturing. China, the worlds biggest polluter, is currently thought to be responsible for producing 27% of global green house gas emissions. China’s emissions could fall by 3.9% this year meaning global levels could fall by up to 0.6%.
The figures come as negotiators from nearly 200 countries entered a second week of climate talks in Paris.
However, there have been warnings that this drop may be temporary and the change from fossil fuels to clean energy must be increased to avoid dangerous levels of global warming. But as emerging economies such as China and India continue to grow, currently seen as hugely beneficial to various global economies including the UK, so will their reliance on the more heavily polluting fuels such as coal.
Prof Corinne Le Quéré, author on the paper said, “One wonders: is this peak emissions? It depends in large part in the immediate term on what happens in China, and how they deal with their economy instability and restructuring, what they call the new ‘normal’.”
“The Chinese themselves think their emissions are going to go up. So the prognosis for global emissions is also probably for resuming an upward trajectory.”
There is also concern over the future of emissions from India. Highly dependent in coal, it currently emits to same level of greenhouse gases as China did 25 years ago.
Indian Prime minister, Narendra Modi, has been keen to promote its use of solar power to reduce emissions, but also insisted that India would not accept curbs on its use of coal which is seen as an important part of its future development.
Indian emissions have increased by over 6% this year and, with much of the population still without electricity, coal seen as key to providing this energy.
Although the predictions of a fall are welcome news, if emissions continue at current levels, it is still likely exceptionally harmful global warming of 3-4C above pre-industrial levels with ensuing catastrophic changes in rainfall, coastal flooding and rising sea levels will follow leading to decimation of affected ecosystems, and increased risk of outbreaks of diseases and pests.
Previous climate talks have focused on limiting global warming to 2C, although many now want a target of 1.5C.
The news comes as Beijing issues its first ever ‘red smog alert’ meaning the air in the Chinese city is so polluted, schools are closed, outdoor construction is stopped and odd and even number plated cars are banned from driving on alternate days.