World carbon emissions stopped growing in 2015, says BP

Move towards renewable energy and away from coal power helped stall emissions growth last year but slowdown may be temporary, says oil giant

Carbon emissions stopped growing in 2015 for the first time in 10 years as the world turned its back on coal and embraced energy efficiency and renewable power with increased vigour, according to a new set of statistics.

China led the way in driving down emissions but the latest figures from oil company BP come with a warning that the progress may not last.

With the exception of a drop in global emissions around the time of the 2009 financial crisis, which heavily depressed overall business activity, the BP figure of 0.1% growth in CO2 is the lowest for 25 years.

Wind power capacity grew by 17.4% and solar by 32.6% last year with China overtaking Germany and the US as the largest generator of solar. America’s overall renewable energy capacity increased by 19.7%, Germany’s by 10.9% and Britain’s by only 4.8%.

“There are good reasons for thinking that some of this (CO2) slowdown reflects structural forces (pushing for low carbon power) that are likely to persist and grow in importance,” said Spencer Dale, BP’s chief economist.

“But some probably reflects cyclical factors, particularly the contraction of China’s most energy-intensive sectors, which are unlikely to keep being repeated and may well unwind in future years,” he added.

The pledges and determination shown by world governments at the Paris climate change talks in Paris meant there would likely be “further policies aimed at shifting the fuel-mix towards cleaner, lower-carbon fuels, with renewable energy, along with natural gas, the main beneficiary,” said Dale.

He defended his own company’s business model of concentrating investment largely on oil and gas, saying BP was gradually moving from oil to favouring gas, which results in lower emissions, as a “bridge” fuel to a low carbon economy. He also said BP had invested in Brazilian biofuels and US wind power.

But asked at a briefing to unveil the BP annual statistical review of world energy whether his employer should do more, he said: “We need governments to lead on this... and set a meaningful carbon price.”

The International Energy Agency reported flat CO2 emissions in 2014 and 2015 but BP said it did not take into account numbers that became available later on with regard to Chinese carbon output related to higher grade coal it had been burning.

Factors behind the slowdown in carbon emissions growth worldwide in 2015, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, published on 8 June 2016.
Factors behind the slowdown in carbon emissions growth worldwide in 2015, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, published on 8 June 2016. Photograph: BP

Coal consumption fell worldwide by 1.8% last year even as the price slumped by 20%, the latest BP statistics show. Much of the decline was a result of the US switching from its own coal supplies to shale gas for generating electricity at power stations.

Oil demand grew by 1.9m barrels a day in 2015, heavily influenced by the collapse in crude prices. Dale believed the cost of Brent blend oil – since recovered from a low of $28 per barrel to around $52 – would continue to move upwards in the second half of this year. But the chances of a major, sustained bounceback in the short term would be undermined by a major stock “overhang” .


Terry Macalister

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Climate chaos certain if oil and gas mega-projects go ahead, warns IEA chief
Fatih Birol says ‘carbon bombs’, revealed in Guardian investigation, will not solve global energy crisis

Fiona Harvey, Matthew Taylor and Damian Carrington

12, May, 2022 @1:33 PM

Article image
Carbon emissions fall as electricity producers move away from coal
Global emissions fell 2% amid milder winters and reduced reliance on coal-fired power plants

Jillian Ambrose and Simon Goodley

09, Mar, 2020 @6:01 AM

Article image
UK climate change masterplan – the grownups have finally won
Government’s clean growth strategy unequivocally states that tackling climate change and a prosperous economy go hand in hand

Damian Carrington Environment editor

12, Oct, 2017 @12:32 PM

Article image
Climate change: do more now or risk catastrophe, warns energy agency
IEA says deep disparity between words and action on climate change risks failing to cap global temperatures

Jillian Ambrose

13, Nov, 2019 @12:01 AM

Article image
Firms ignoring climate crisis will go bankrupt, says Mark Carney
Bank of England governor warns of financial collapse linked to climate emergency

Damian Carrington Environment editor

13, Oct, 2019 @11:00 AM

Article image
Fossil fuel firms ‘have humanity by the throat’, says UN head in blistering attack
António Guterres compares climate inaction to tobacco firms dismissing links between smoking and cancer

Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent

17, Jun, 2022 @1:00 PM

Article image
Global clean energy employment rose 5% in 2015, figures show
More than 8 million people were employed worldwide in the renewable energy sector last year as rapidly falling costs drove growth in the industry

Damian Carrington

25, May, 2016 @1:00 PM

Article image
Cheaper oil could damage renewable energies, says Richard Branson
Entrepreneur claims Saudi Arabia is encouraging collapse in oil price in bid to undermine fracking and clean energy

John Vidal

16, Dec, 2014 @6:38 PM

Article image
Renewables cut Europe's carbon emissions by 10% in 2015, says EEA
European Environment Agency reports solar and and wind is reducing fossil fuel dependency but clean energy capacity still not growing fast enough

Arthur Neslen

03, Apr, 2017 @2:05 PM

Article image
What will happen to oil and gas workers as the world turns carbon neutral?
Building a wind farm or solar energy project is nothing professionals in fossil fuels can’t manage, but there are too few programmes to help them retrain

Oliver Balch

27, Aug, 2015 @7:00 AM