Throughout the 20th century, the correlation was very simple: fast-growing economy, fastgrowing carbon emissions. But in recent years, about 33 countries have reduced emissions while maintaining growth. In Europe, by 24% over 30 years, in America, by 15% from 2007 to 2019, even though GDP per person grew by 23%. Australia’s emissions are down 9% from their peak in 2012, and Israel’s are down 12% over 10 years, despite growth in both economies.
Part of this is due to the outsourcing of production. Think of the “factories of the world” – Vietnam, Thailand, Bangladesh, where production is moved from the U.S. or Germany.
Secondly, new technologies reduce the energy intensity of production. This factor, for example, has been responsible for 80% of the drop in emissions in Germany since 1990.
Instead of industry, the growth of the economy is now primarily driven by services. The share of industry in American GDP has fallen from 17% in 2007 to 14% by 2019. In Germany, it has fallen by 2 p.p. over the same period. The use of renewable energy, as well as the electrification of home heating and transportation, plays no small role.
What about emerging economies?
China’s emissions continue to rise. From 2000 to 2020 they tripled to 10.9 billion tons/year. However, GDP growth was still faster than the increase in emissions. In Russia, the 2010-2018 dynamics remained practically unchanged, with a stable 1.9-2.1 billion tons per year; GDP growth over the same period dropped from 4.5% to 1.5%. Even developing countries are making some progress (China, for example, is a leader in EV transport, which will lower emissions on the horizon of 15-20 years). Over the next 30 years, progress worldwide promises to be even greater.