MARRAKESH, Morocco (Reuters) - World greenhouse gas emissions stayed flat for the third year in a row in 2016, thanks to falls in China, even as the pro-coal policies of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump mean uncertainty for the future, an international study said on Monday.
Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry were set to rise a tiny 0.2 percent in 2016 from 2015 levels to 36.4 billion tonnes, the third consecutive year with negligible change and down from three percent growth rates in the 2000s, it said.
The Global Carbon Project, grouping climate researchers, welcomed the flatlining of emissions amid global economic growth. But it cautioned that the world was not yet firmly on track for a greener economy.
“It’s far too early to say we’ve reached a peak in emissions,” co-author Glen Peters, of the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo, told Reuters, referring to the findings issued at U.N. talks on climate change in Marrakesh, Morocco.
“So far the slowdown has been driven by China,” Peters said, adding Beijing’s climate change policies would also be the dominant force in future since it accounts for almost 30 percent of global emissions.
Chinese emissions were on track to dip 0.5 percent this year, depressed by slower economic growth and coal consumption.
U.S. emissions were projected to fall by 1.7 percent in 2016, also driven by declines in coal consumption, according to the study published in the journal Earth System Science Data.
By contrast, emissions in many emerging economies are still rising. Carbon dioxide is the main man-made greenhouse gas blamed for trapping heat, stoking disruptions to world water and food supplies with heat waves, floods, storms and droughts.
The Marrakesh talks among almost 200 governments, between Nov. 7-18, have been dominated by uncertainties about future U.S. policy after Republican Trump’s victory on Tuesday.
Trump has called global warming a hoax and wants to pull out of the Paris Agreement for limiting emissions, reached last year after two decades of negotiations, and instead bolster jobs in the U.S. coal and oil industries.
Still, Peters said natural gas, wind and solar were likely to continue displacing coal in U.S. electricity production, thanks to new technologies and lower prices.
Other scientists welcomed Monday’s findings.
“This could be the turning point we have hoped for,” David Reay, Professor of Carbon Management at the University of Edinburgh, said in a statement. He added: “The real Houdini work of freeing our economies from carbon has only just begun.”
Reporting By Alister Doyle; Editing by Andrew Bolton