- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Even without the Paris climate agreement, worldwide carbon dioxide emissions stayed flat last year for the third year in a row as the global economy grew, raising questions about the need for the UN accord.

Estimates from the International Energy Agency released Friday showed emissions from the industrial sector last year measured at 32.1 gigatonnes, the same amount as the previous two years, while the global economy grew by 3.1 percent.

The United States saw the biggest one-year drop, with emissions falling by 3 percent as the economy expanded by 1.6 percent. The decrease pushed U.S. carbon dioxide emissions to their lowest level since 1992, even though the economy grew during that period by 80 percent.

The agency credited the “continued decoupling of emissions and economic activity” to the “growing renewable power generation, switches from coal to natural gas, improvements in energy efficiency, as well as structural changes in the global economy.”

“These three years of flat emissions in a growing global economy signal an emerging trend and that is certainly a cause for optimism, even if it is too soon to say that global emissions have definitely peaked,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol in a statement.



“They are also a sign that market dynamics and technological improvements matter,” he said. “This is especially true in the United States, where abundant shale gas supplies have become a cheap power source.”

China, the world’s largest emitter along with the United States, saw emissions fall by 1 percent and the economy expand by 6.7 percent, while Europe remained “largely stable” as coal demand dropped by 10 percent and gas increased by 8 percent.

The agency’s findings reignited criticism of the Paris Agreement, which President Trump promised to dismantle during last year’s campaign. President Barack Obama entered into the accord in September without Senate ratification.

The non-binding agreement, which calls for limiting the increase in global temperatures to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, went into effect Nov. 4 after being ratified by countries responsible for more than 55 percent of global emissions.

“Who needs EPA regulations or UN treaties to reduce carbon dioxide emissions?” said Climate Depot publisher Marc Morano, a staunch opponent of the Paris accord. “Emissions are slowing due market forces, technology driven efficiency and of course—fracking.”

He added that if “climate activists were intellectually honest, they would be singing the praises of fracking as the most effective way to reduce emissions. Fracking has put the UN climate agreement out of business.”

The U.S. energy industry has boomed thanks in large part to hydraulic fracturing, which has helped displace coal by allowing the extraction of previously inaccessible reserves of cleaner-burning natural gas.

“Coal demand fell worldwide but the drop was particularly sharp in the United States, where demand was down 11% in 2016,” said the agency. “For the first time, electricity generation from natural gas was higher than from coal last year in the United States.”

Supporters of the climate agreement have argued that the recent emissions stability represents a promising beginning but that the trend needs to be reversed.

“We now need to turn this no-growth to actual declines in emissions as soon as possible,” said four climate scientists in a Nov. 13 post in the Conversation. “Otherwise, it will be a challenge to keep cumulative emissions below the level that would avoid a 2℃ warming, as required under the Paris Agreement.”

A November 2016 report from PricewaterhouseCoopers said that countries will need to reduce their carbon footprint by 6.5 percent per year until 2100 in order to meet the Paris goal and maintain 3 percent GDP growth.

“Despite the relatively rapid decarbonisation in 2015, countries still fall short of what’s needed,” said the report, “The Low Carbon Economy Index 2016.”

 

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