Falling Carbon Intensity – the UK leads

Posted in: Comment, New Publications

It seems that the UK is leading the world in addressing one aspect of climate change.  This is that the fall in our greenhouse gas emissions per $ of GDP, at 10.9%, is not only the highest in the world in 2014, but also the highest on record.  This arcane figure is termed ‘carbon intensity’, and the data come from PriceWaterhouseCooper’s annual Low Carbon Economy Index *.

By contrast, the figure for the US is a miserable 1.9%, and Germany, that €uro powerhouse, managed only 7.1%. The average fall across the world was 2.7%.  PWC reckons, using IPCC data, that it would have to be 6.3% to keep the world temperature rise below 2 degrees C.  More evidence, then, that this will not be happening.

The 2.7% fall comes about because the global GDP rose by 3.3% in 2014, while carbon emissions rose by (only) 0.5%. As a result of this, PWC suggests that GDP and emissions have at last become “uncoupled” which, if true, will be some rare good news.


* Two degrees of separation: ambition and reality.  The report begins:

"The 2014 Low Carbon Economy Index (LCEI) shows an unmistakeable trend. For the sixth year running, the global economy has missed the decarbonisation target needed to limit global warming to 2 ̊C.  Confronted with the challenge in 2013 of decarbonising at 6% a year, we managed only 1.2%.  To avoid two degrees of warming, the global economy now needs to decarbonise at 6.2% a year, more than five times faster than the current rate, every year from now till 2100.  On our current burn rate we blow our carbon budget by 2034, sixty six years ahead of schedule.  This trajectory, based on IPCC data, takes us to four degrees of warming by the end of the century.

This stark message comes in the run up to a critical series of climate negotiations, kicking off in New York and Lima in late 2014, then moving to Paris by December 2015 for the COP21 Summit, widely thought of as the last chance to secure a global agreement on action on climate change.


Go on, just read that bit again:

"To avoid two degrees of warming, the global economy now needs to decarbonise at 6.2% a year ... every year from now till 2100."

Why 'on Earth' isn't everybody talking about this?  Why isn't it at the heart of policy-making?


Posted in: Comment, New Publications


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