from the some-good-news dept.
2016 was the third year in a row that global carbon emissions remained stable, even as the overall economy grew. Although 32.1 Gigatonnes of emissions is certainly not good news for future climates, there is some cause for optimism within the numbers, as some major economies saw their emissions drop. And controlling emissions didn't come at the expense of the world's finances, as preliminary estimates show that the global economy grew by over three percent.
[...] China was one of those countries, starting up five new reactors to increase its nuclear capacity by 25 percent. Nuclear combined with renewables to handle two-thirds of the country's rising demand. China also shifted some of its fossil fuel use from coal to natural gas. The net result was a drop in emissions of about one percent, even as demand grew by over five percent (and the economy grew by nearly seven percent). Gas still represents a small fraction of China's energy economy, so there's the potential for further displacement of coal.
In the US, the process of shifting from coal to natural gas is already well advanced. Coal use was down by 11 percent last year, the IEA estimates, allowing natural gas to displace it as the US' largest single source of energy. This, along with booming renewables, allowed the US to drop its carbon emissions by three percent in 2016. That takes emissions to levels not seen since 1992, even though the economy is now 80 percent larger than it was then.