Global growth in CO2 emissions almost stalled in 2014


In 2014, the growth in global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use and cement production slowed down to only 0.5% compared to 2013, while the world’s economy grew by 3%, showing a partial decoupling of CO2 emissions and economic growth. China and the United States increased their emissions by 0.9%. In the European Union, CO2 emissions decreased by an unprecedented 5.4%, while India’s emissions increased strongly, by 7.8%. Together these four countries/regions account for 61% of total emissions from fossil fuel use and industrial processes. For the first time since 1998, per capita primary energy consumption decreased in 2014.

These are some of the main conclusions from the annual report ‘Trends in global CO2 emissions’ by PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (EC-JRC). The report presents the outcomes of the joint JRC/PBL Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR) version 4.3 and preliminary estimates based on the latest statistics on energy use, including the recent revision of coal statistics in China, and other statistics.

Top 4 emitting ‘countries’ account for 61% of total global emissions

The largest emitters are (share in total global emissions between brackets): China (30%), the United States (15%), the European Union (EU-28) (10%) and India (6.5%). China saw virtually no increase in coal demand in 2014 and increased its CO2 emissions by only 0.9% compared to 2013, which is the lowest annual increase over the last decade and following two years of slowed down emissions growth. The pace of the continued reduction in CO2 emissions in the EU-28 increased in 2014 by an unprecedented 5.4%, mainly because of a decrease in fossil-fuel consumption for power generation and manufacturing, but also because of a much lower demand for space heating, partly due to a relatively warm winter. India’s emissions continued to increase, by 7.8% in 2014. The United States increased its CO2 emissions by 0.9%, which was mainly the result of increased use of natural gas for space heating. In 2014, emissions in most other OECD countries and in Russia decreased too, while CO2 emissions in many other developing countries increased.

Slowdown in emissions after decade of strong growth

After 10 years of average global annual increases of 4% – except during the credit crunch years of 2008 and 2009 – the growth in global CO2 emissions slowed down to about 0.8% in 2012 and 1.5% in 2013. In 2014, the increase almost stalled to about 0.5%, and CO2 emissions reached a global total of 35.7 billion tonnes CO2. In comparison, the global average annual growth rate over the 1980–2002 period was 1.2%. China’s economy is structurally changing from a manufacturing and export-oriented economy towards one with a stronger focus on less energy-intensive industries and services as well as on domestic consumption, with more energy efficiency and a low-carbon energy mix. Therefore, it is likely that the very high global annual emission growth rates, as observed in the years 2003 to 2011, will not be seen in the coming years.

China largest emitter, but United States tops per capita emissions

New emission data, including recent coal statistics, show China’s CO2 emissions currently to be twice as high as those in the United States, exactly 10 years after its emissions equalled those of the United States. However, per capita emissions in the United States are twice as high as those of both China and the European Union. China’s high ranking is mainly caused by the sheer size of its population and economy and the fact that its energy mix is strongly reliant on coal.

Structural changes in global CO2 emission trends still uncertain

On a global scale, the slowdown in the emission growth of the last three years can largely be explained by the changes in China's economy and the associated energy consumption. However, it is uncertain whether this slowdown  also reflects structural changes in the wider global economy, global energy efficiency and the energy mix of other key world players.

Primary energy consumption per capita decreased

A significant contribution to the decline in emission growth was delivered by the power sector. While global population growth was 1.1% in 2014, global total primary energy consumption only saw an increase of 0.9% whereas it grew by several per cent in most previous years. As the global population grew faster than its energy consumption, per capita primary energy consumption decreased in 2014 compared to the previous year, for the first time since 1998 (excluding the recession year of 2009). This was caused by changes in the economy, for example in China, and by worldwide energy efficiency improvements, together with the mild winter that helped to reduce fossil-fuel demand for space heating, particularly in Europe.

More information

More data and other graphics can be found at the websites of PBL and JRC: