Decoupling the economic engine from GHGs

At last week’s Climate Week NYC, the Heinrich Bolls Foundation released a study that found that countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have already decreased their GHG emissions without reducing their economic growth.  In other words, they decouplinghave “decoupled” economic growth from emissions.  A few interesting facts include:

1. From 2004 to 2014, OECD economies grew an overall 16% while fossil fuel consumption dropped 6% and GHG emissions, 6.4%.

2. Since 2004, Germany’s GDP has grown 13% and its emissions have dropped 11%.

3. From 2004-07, the US GDP grew 17% while emissions related to fossil fuel combustion dropped 7.4%.

The study offers four factors to account for this decoupling: 1) using low-carbon energy instead of fossil fuels (driven by a large and fast drop in the former’s costs); 2) increasing efficiency in energy generation; 3) also increasing energy efficiency by consumers; and 4) transitioning from energy-intensive manufacturing to less energy-intensive service work.

Fear of dampening economic growth has hampered more than one politician from supporting climate change regulations.  But given that this study is line with the EIA’s conclusion that 2014 saw GHGs drop while GDP increased, blogged about earlier this year, predictions that decarbonizing an economy can create jobs and fuel economic growth are looking very credible.