Climate Compass Blog

Decoupling economic growth from carbon emissions

Source: International Energy Agency

For the second year in a row, the global economy grew and global carbon dioxide emissions did not.

Preliminary data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) indicate that energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions (from burning fossil fuels for electricity, transportation, industry, space heating and so on) remained unchanged from the previous two years at around 32.1 billion metric tons. Meanwhile, economic growth increased by more than 3 percent for the second consecutive year.

A couple years of data doesn’t necessarily translate into a trend. And continued ambition in the decades ahead - like we saw with the landmark Paris Agreement in December 2015 - will be required before we can announce that we have truly turned the corner on reducing CO2 emissions.

But the IEA noted that 90 percent of new electric generation in 2015 came from renewables. Yes, 90 percent. And this apparent decoupling – after decades of energy-related CO2 emissions moving in lockstep with economic growth -- is a positive sign that low-carbon policies may finally be gaining traction in many parts of the world.

The change is due to policies and market forces affecting two factors – energy intensity and fuel mix – both in China and in the developed economies.

Kick start spring with 5 green ideas

Spring is the season of renewal, making it the perfect time to re-evaluate and refresh how we go about living and working sustainably on the planet. Turn over a new leaf this spring by trying any or all of the following five suggestions for treading more lightly on the earth.

  1. Avoid waste: What we buy and discard creates tons of waste and greenhouse gas emissions. The average American creates 4 pounds of trash daily. Keep would-be-waste to a minimum by making smart choices before you consume. Here are three tips: BYORM (bring your own reusable mug) to your favorite drink shop; carry reusable bags when shopping; or use Pyrex, Tupperware or reusable snack bags for leftovers after dining out.
  2. Mix up your commute: Are you one of the millions of Americans who drive nearly 30 miles a day – more often than not alone? Try a new way to get where you’re going. Use bike shares, take public transportation, join a carpool or try an uberPOOL.
  3. Grow your curb appeal: With spring around the corner, it is a fine time to add native trees and other plants to your yard or community garden. This greenery will capture carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas contributing to climate change. Once established, native plants are low-maintenance and survive well on available water. They also enhance the look of your home or community. For more tips, check this guide to native plant gardening.

We need states to show clean energy leadership

Smart policy often comes from the states, and many states have shown and are expected to continue to show leadership in addressing climate change and promoting clean energy.

The Clean Power Plan stimulated discussions across the country, sometimes for the first time, among state energy and environment department officials, regulators, and energy companies about ways to reduce emissions. And we see momentum to keep those and other conversations going.

Consider some of the many ways states are leading:

Better EV decisions through data

February is dragging on for an extra day this year, delaying my favorite spring ritual: the opening day of baseball season. The extra day of eager contemplation has me combining a seasonal love of baseball with my year-round affection for electric vehicles (EVs). Bear with me here.

Baseball is an intensely data-driven sport. Whereas most sports are still using relatively simple stats like basketball’s “double double,” where a player reaches double digits in two statistical categories, baseball analysts predict teams’ expected wins by calculating Pythagorean scoring averages. Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane fielded a winning team by using data to find players’ overlooked value, inspiring a famous book and cunningly selling Brad Pitt as a reasonable look-alike in the process.

Baseball shows the importance of data availability and statistical inferences in decision-making. Similarly, access to the best statistics may help transportation managers determine the best strategies to promote adoption of EVs, a market-ready transportation alternative that can reduce harmful emissions that contribute to climate change. The difficulty has been that data resources have been scattered, often difficult to locate and even more difficult to compile into a usable form. This is where a new data tool may be able to offer meaningful insights into EV markets.

Leap Day gives us 24 hours to help the planet

What are you doing for Leap Day?

According to folklore, it’s a good day for a woman to propose marriage. But if you’re not looking for that kind of commitment, you can instead commit to make a positive impact in the world during your extra 24 hours this year.

Here are seven things you can do to commit to a better planet Earth this Leap Day:

1.    Plan an environmental outing with friends or co-workers. This might mean cleaning up a local stream or helping a local school build a live-and-learn greenhouse or garden. C2ES staffers planted wildflowers at a local park last year and are working on a new outing. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers some other great environmental project ideas.

2.    Host an environmental film screening. Educate yourself and friends by watching and discussing an environmental film or TV series like “Chasing Ice,” “Planet Earth,” or “The Symphony of Soil.” For more suggestions, visit this eco film list.

3.    Take steps to save energy. Lowering your personal footprint begins by taking stock of how you use energy at home, at work and on the go. With better understanding, you can take action and live more sustainably while saving energy, money and the environment. Use our carbon calculator to find your footprint and complete pledges to improve it.