Zero Emissions Development

Having analyzed the last year’s economic and environmental outcomes, the International Energy Agency came to a sensational conclusion. According to the experts, the economic growth of 2014 was not followed by any growth of greenhouse gases emissions. Environmental NGOs say that such an unexpected conclusion is yet another proof that it is possible to have economic development with a zero emissions growth.

The data provided by the International Energy Agency (IEA) is the result of the statistical analysis of the past forty years’ worth of data. The information has not been announced officially; however, the IEA experts are certain that the unexpected preliminary results are correct.

The data shows that while the world’s economy grew up 3%, the СО2 emissions from burning coal, gas and oil products remained at the 2013 level and totaled 32.3 billion tons. Previously, the emissions had only decreased in times of crises: in the beginning of the 1980’s, in 1992 and 2009. The IEA explains the 2014 dynamics by a significant GHG emissions reduction achieved by developed countries, by a serious slowing-down of the emissions growth in China, as well as by the active development of renewable energy sources all around the globe.

According to the experts, the lack of observable emissions growth is linked to the shrinking share of coal in the total use of fossil fuels. As current statistical data suggests, in 2014 the world economy consumed far more oil and gas than in the previous year.

However, it is still too early to talk about the causes of such a sensational fact, as the aggregate data on coal is not ready yet. The slow-down of global coal sector development may be the result of the drop in oil and gas prices and of relatively warm winter in many countries, the experts suppose. They also emphasize the growing impact of climate policies implemented by some countries and financial organizations that limit investments into coal-based energy production.

Quoting Alexey Kokorin, Head of the World Wildlife Fund’s Climate and Energy program, ‘the data provided by IEA mean that for the world as a whole, the effect of transferring power-consuming industries (with their large СО2 emissions) from developed countries to developing ones is not as massive as previously thought. But the data is, of course, just preliminary. It is quite possible that global СО2 emissions will keep on growing for many years to come, and only then the decrease will be possible.’

‘Zero emissions-growth development is one of the key elements of the new UNFCCC climate agreement for the period after 2020, which is planned to be signed in Paris in the end of this year. It is anticipated that the agreement will have an effect not on oil and gas, but namely on the coal-based energy production. The investment into coal will steadily decrease, while investments into renewable energy sources keep on growing,’ adds the expert.

Russia is currently at 70% of the 1990 level of GHG emissions. Taking into consideration the goals announced by Russia’s official delegation, i.e. 70-75% by 2030, the country could have set the maximum possible target.

‘The current crisis is creating the conditions that hinder the emissions growth by default,’ says Olga Senova of Russian Socio-Ecological Union’s Climate Secretariat. ‘A sustainable solution for the crisis is only possible if based on modernization and an improved energy efficiency of our economy, as well as real, not merely declarative, diversification of the energy sector, where priority is given to the development of renewable energy sources. Only this scenario will allow Russian economy to develop while reducing emissions at the same time.