March 12, 2009 / 2:56 PM / 11 years ago

Global downturn could halve CO2 emissions: expert

Smoke billows from the chimneys at a coking factory in Changzhi, Shanxi province in this file photo from November 13, 2008. REUTERS/Stringer

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - The global economic downturn could cut greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 50 percent, a scientist said on Thursday at the Congress on Climate Change.

Terry Barker, director of the Center for Climate Change Mitigation Research at Cambridge University, said the recession could cause a reduction in carbon emissions by 2012 bigger than the estimated 35 percent cut in the 1929-1932 Great Depression.

“My top-of-the-head prediction is it would go down as much as 40 to 50 percent at worst but that remains to be seen,” Barker said.

“At the moment the signs are very bad as to when we’re going to get out of this depression. I’m very pessimistic about global GDP, but I suppose you could say I’m very optimistic that carbon emissions are going to come down,” he said.

Barker said he already saw signs of sharp falls in electricity production in China, but needed more data from the industrialized world before he could make a more confident prediction.

In the meantime, he urged governments to use the opportunity to stimulate their economies by investing in green energy.

“If all G20 countries adopted a Green New Deal, the world economy could be greatly strengthened, especially the sectors producing low-carbon technologies,” he said.

“As we get to more stringent carbon reduction targets macroeconomic costs go down, not up,” Barker added. “We would see increased benefits through innovation and distribution of low carbon technologies and increased revenues from taxes.”

Editing by Andrew Roche

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