As the economy grows, worldwide energy production usually releases more carbon pollution into the atmosphere than it did the year before. But in 2014, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted globally was the same as it was in 2013.

That’s never happened before in the absence of a large economic crisis. And to explain, experts point to China.

GDP chartLe Quéré: “For ten years, their emissions have really grown very rapidly. But they have put a lot of effort in, for instance, cleaning air pollution.”

That’s Corinne Le Quéré of the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia in England.

She says China has also worked to produce energy more efficiently, and greatly increased its use of solar and wind.

But a few other factors also contributed. Lower oil and gas prices prompted many power plants to shift from coal to less polluting forms of energy. And Le Quéré says the winter was unusually warm in 2014, so people did not use as much heat.

This particular confluence of events is unlikely to continue. But the halt in the rate of emissions shows that reducing air pollution and increasing clean energy – especially in emerging economies – can help prevent dangerous climate change.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Top Photo: Aerial view of Beijing. Copyright protected.
Chart Credit: IEA and Financial Times

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Global energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide stalled in 2014
Global CO2 emissions ‘stalled’ in 2014

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