First signs of a slow down in global CO2 emissions

Global emissions of carbon dioxide reached a record high in 2012: 34.5 billion tonnes.

But there's some good news too. According to a new report by the Netherlands Environment Assessment Agency, the rate at which CO2 emissions are rising has slowed to 1.1% Рless than half the average annual increase of 2.9% over the last decade.

"This development signals a shift towards less fossil-fuel-intensive activities, more use of renewable energy and increased energy saving," the report reads.

The relatively small emissions increase in 2012 "may be the first sign of a more permanent slowdown" and possibly an eventual decline.

CO2 emissions by country

Total CO2 emissions by country | Image from the Netherlands Environment Assessment Agency report | See more indicators here

However, a decline in global CO2 emissions is highly dependent on two things: China's commitment to burn more natural gas, the US's continued move toward gas and renewable energy and the EU's progress in reducing actual emissions.

Currently, three regions account for 55% of total global CO2 emissions. China takes the lion's share with 29%. The US and the European Union come in second and third, although these two decreased their emissions by 4 an 1.6% respectively over the past year.

While the report authors predict a growth in the usage of renewable energy and natural gas, they identify several factors that could upset this trend. Rising production of shale gas could affect natural gas prices, while a prolonged recession in the EU could make it more difficult for the region to meet its emission reduction targets.

See the full report here.