Apr 8, 2021 - Economy

The link between economic growth and CO2 emissions is weakening

Decoupling of emissions and economic growth
Data: The Breakthrough Institute; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

An analysis finds "increasing evidence" of a fraying connection between economic growth and higher carbon emissions — a needed first step toward steep CO2 cuts.

Driving the news: The Breakthrough Institute's Zeke Hausfather finds that since 2005, emissions have become "decoupled" from GDP growth in 32 nations with a population of at least 1 million people.

  • That is, emissions have fallen while the economy has grown in these nations, some of them are seen in the chart above.
  • This applies to territorial emissions, or "those within national borders," and consumption emissions, which means "emissions embodied in the goods consumed in a country."

Why it matters: "[W]ith the rapid cost reductions of clean energy and an expected peak in Chinese emissions in the next five to ten years, it is only a matter of time before absolute decoupling becomes the norm," writes Hausfather, a climate scientist.

Yes, but: "The extent to which this will occur rapidly enough to avoid dangerous levels of warming depends on both the degree of technological progress and the willingness of governments worldwide to invest in mitigating climate change," his analysis adds.

As he points out, significant emissions declines are needed to keep the Paris Agreement goal of limiting warming to well under 2℃ above pre-industrial levels.

Read the analysis.

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