Clean energy proponents and think tanks have long said it is possible to reduce emissions and keep the economy growing. Today, the latest report from the world’s top climate scientists says 18 countries have done just that, sustaining emissions cuts “for at least a decade” as their economies continued to grow.
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) did not name the countries, citing inconsistencies in the data.
But using figures from the Global Carbon Project, which are not part of the report, The Associated Press found 19 countries where annual carbon dioxide emissions before the pandemic were at least 10 million metric tons lower in 2019 than in 2010. This is the United States. , United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Italy, Ukraine, France, Spain, Greece, Netherlands, Mexico, Finland, Singapore, Denmark, Czech Republic , Belgium, Poland, Romania and Sweden.
The IPCC has identified three common factors for countries that have successfully decarbonized: they used less energy, switched from fossil fuels to renewables, and increased the energy efficiency of their products.
These countries “can export a model that shows we can reduce emissions while having high levels of well-being,” said Greg Nemet, professor of energy and public policy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison La Follette. School of Public Affairs. “We can export policies that have been instrumental in achieving this goal.”
While the list of countries shows the way forward, it also raises questions of equity. The United States, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom are among the main contributors to historical carbon emissions. Their inhabitants already have electricity and, to a large extent, vehicles.
Nemet, who is also a lead author of the IPCC report, added that developed countries that have historically contributed to climate change and have been able to decarbonise must play a “leadership” role in helping developing countries development to do the same.
Historical emissions and discussions of responsibility are always discussed at United Nations climate conferences. But getting industrialized countries to agree on whether damage compensation is justified or how much they should pay to help poorer countries invest in green technologies has proven elusive.
The world’s least developed countries are estimated to have emitted just 3.3% of global greenhouse gases in 2019, Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, pointed out in a statement to the PA. Some experts note that developing countries are often forced to borrow money at higher interest rates than developed countries, which can make large investment projects prohibitively expensive.
“The 18 countries that have balanced emissions reduction and economic growth are indeed examples that give us hope for the future, but…all developed nations have a historic responsibility to ensure that they build – whether on the Paris Agreement goals of providing $100 billion a year in climate finance, ensuring that the poorest countries have access to the technology and knowledge needed to make those changes,” or leading, making those transitions first, she said.
Michael Grubb, senior writer of the IPCC report and professor of energy and climate change at University College London, said in the report that scientists ran economic and emissions scenarios to see what would happen in the world at different levels of carbon pollution reduction. In almost all scenarios – including the “most aggressive” to reduce carbon emissions – global gross domestic product still nearly doubled by mid-century. Even in the scenario with the deepest emissions cuts, GDP jumped 96%, Grubb said.
“The point is that in practice what we do on climate mitigation in macroeconomic terms is really going to be lost in the noise of the overall effectiveness of our economic policies,” he said.
Grubb said the IPCC report declined to name the 18 countries because the data for some only counted carbon dioxide while for others included all greenhouse gases. The reference years also differed. By metrics, there are more countries that have cut emissions while growing their economies, he said.
Patricia Romero-Lankao, senior scientist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and lead author of the national and subnational policy portion of the IPCC report, said she was optimistic. But she highlighted how much more needs to be done to help disadvantaged communities and regions decarbonise and repair the impacts of climate change.
“It’s not a technical problem,” she said. “We need to understand what they need, what challenges they face, and how we can adapt our toolset to help us meet them.”
The Associated Press Health and Science Department is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.