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Explained: How CO2 emission trend reflects India slowdown

The numbers put out by Global Carbon Project are estimates, and not official. But these offer important indicators to global trends in carbon dioxide emissions in near-real time.

Written by Amitabh Sinha | Madrid | Updated: December 5, 2019 8:22:22 am
India CO2 emission, climate talks, climate change, india pollution, carbondioxide, CO2 emissions, india and climate change, india climate change goals, india renewable energy The numbers put out by Global Carbon Project are estimates, and not official. But these offer important indicators to global trends in carbon dioxide emissions in near-real time. (File Photo)

A new study unveiled on Wednesday says the growth in India’s carbon dioxide emissions this year was likely to be considerably lower than in the last few years. The Global Carbon Project, which puts out emission estimates for across the world every year, has said India’s emissions in 2019 (2.6 billion tonnes or gigatonnes) was likely to be only 1.8 per cent higher than in 2018. This is significantly lower than the 8% growth that India showed last year and the more-than-5% average growth over the last ten years.

The growth in global carbon dioxide emissions too is likely to come down this year, to just 0.6% over last year, according to the report.

Global Annual Fossil CO2 Emissions, 2000-18

What arrested the growth

The lower growth in CO2 emissions, though desirable, is only a positive fallout of the slowdown in the Indian economy, according to the report. Economic growth has been consistently weakening over the last few quarters, leading to reduction in activities that cause emissions.

“Indian CO2 emissions have grown at 5.1 per cent per year over the last decade, but growth is expected to be much weaker in 2019, at 1.8 per cent (range 0.7 to 3.7 per cent). Weak economic growth in India has led to slower growth in oil and natural gas use. With a weakening economy, growth in India’s generation of electricity has slowed from 6 per cent per year to under 1 per cent in 2019, despite electrification of villages adding to potential demand. Moreover, the addition of a very wet monsoon led to very high hydropower generation and a decline in generation from coal,” the report says, explaining the possible causes for decline in India’s emissions growth.

Economic slowdown has been blamed for a lower emission growth in the rest of the world as well, and also in China, the world’s largest emitter.

“China had low growth and unexpected declines in CO2emissions over the period 2014 to 2016, but in 2017 and 2018, its CO2 emissions rose again by 1.7 per cent and 2.3 per cent respectively. In 2019, China’s CO2 emissions are expected to rise by 2.6 per cent (range 0.7 to 4.4 per cent). Chinese emissions could have been growing faster if it were not for slower economic growth,” the report says.

Also read | 2019 could be second warmest year on record: WMO

Why the report matters

The numbers put out by Global Carbon Project are estimates, and not official. But these offer important indicators to global trends in carbon dioxide emissions in near-real time. Collection, collation and calculation of emissions take considerable time, and in any case, official numbers are put out by the governments. In India’s case, the most recent official numbers relating to all kinds of emissions pertain to 2014. Those were submitted to the UN climate body just last year.

According to those numbers, India’s carbon dioxide emissions in 2014 was 1.99 billion tonnes, while its total greenhouse gas emissions, which include other greenhouse gases like methane and nitrous oxide, was 2.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

The Global Carbon Project estimates the carbon dioxide emissions in 2019 alone to be about 2.6 billion tonnes. They do not give the estimates of emissions of other greenhouse gases. The near-real time estimates put out by the project are based on datasets that monitor production and consumption trends of key indicators like electricity, oil and gas, cement, and chemicals and fertilisers.

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