Global carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels are projected to rise only slightly in 2016, marking three years of almost no growth, says a study.
Researchers said that carbon emissions did not grow last year and the projected rise of only 0.2 percent for 2016 marks a clear break from the rapid emissions growth of 2.3 percent per year in the decade up to 2013, with just 0.7 percent growth seen in 2014.
The study, published in the Earth System Science Data journal, however, pointed out that although the break in emissions rise is in tandem with several countries pledging to decrease emissions until 2030, it falls short of the reductions needed to limit climate change well below two degrees Celsius.
"This third year of almost no growth in emissions is unprecedented at a time of strong economic growth. This is a great help for tackling climate change but it is not enough. Global emissions now need to decrease rapidly, not just stop growing," Corinne Le Quere, Professor at University of East Anglia (UEA) in Britain who led the data analysis, said.
The analysis by researchers at the University of East Anglia and the Global Carbon Project, a group of scientists who measure how much carbon dioxide (CO2) humans emit every year, and how much is subsequently absorbed by plants, land surfaces and oceans, showed emissions growth remained below one percent despite GDP growth exceeding three percent.
The researchers identified decreased use of coal in China and the US as the main reason behind the three-year slowdown.
China - the biggest emitter of CO2 at 29 percent - saw emissions decrease by 0.7 percent in 2015, compared to growth of more than five percent per year the previous decade. The scientists have projected a further reduction of 0.5 percent is projected for 2016.
The US, the second biggest emitter of CO2 at 15 percent, also reduced its coal use while increasing its oil and gas consumption and saw emissions decrease 2.6 percent last year. US emissions are projected to decrease by 1.7 percent in 2016.
The European Union's 28 member states are the third largest emitter causing 10 percent of emissions. The EU's CO2 emissions went up 1.4 percent in 2015, in contrast with longer term decreases.India contributed 6.3 percent of all global CO2 emissions in 2015, the study said.
The Global Carbon Budget analysis showed that, in spite of a lack of growth in emissions, the growth in atmospheric CO2 concentration was a record-high in 2015, and could be a record again in 2016 due to weak carbon sinks.
"Part of the CO2 emissions are absorbed by the ocean and by trees. With temperatures soaring in 2015 and 2016, less CO2 was absorbed by trees because of the hot and dry conditions related to the El Nino event. Atmospheric CO2 levels have exceeded 400 parts per million and will continue to rise and cause the planet to warm until emissions are cut down to near zero," Le Quere said.