The amount of carbon generated from fossil fuel use per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) – generally called emissions intensity – , fell globally in all but two years between 1994 and 2006.
The finding in included in a World Bank study, Changes in CO2 Emissions from Energy Use. Other important outcome of the research is that the growth of GDP per capita and growth in population contributed the most to the net increase in emissions, while reducing energy intensity contributed the most to the net decrease in emissions.
The paper indicates that reducing the amount of energy required to produce a unit of GDP, particularly in the service sector, has been the greatest contributor to curbing emissions growth.
Masami Kojima, the lead energy specialist with the World Bank, and one of the authors of the study, is reported saying that emissions reductions in individual countries show a mixed picture, which highlights to challenge of de-coupling emissions from economic growth.
As an example, between 2001 and 2006, emissions in countries like Italy and China grew rapidly relative to GDP, while emissions from fossil fuel use in the United States continued to rise with economic growth, but at a slowing rate between 2001 and 2006, largely due to emissions reductions by the American industrial sector.
A handful of countries, including Denmark and Germany, significantly reduced emissions and in relation to economic growth, but the study did not analyze the specific policies within each country that led to changes in emissions, according to the article.
“It would be helpful to policy makers in Copenhagen to pay attention to these results, particularly to lessons learned in countries that have been successful in reducing energy intensity,” said Warren Evans, the director of the World Bank, in a statement.