Key Indicators of Progress on the Paris Agreement

A paper published in the February 2017 issue of Nature Climate Change, entitled “Key indicators to track current progress and future ambition of the Paris Agreement”, outlines a method whereby it would be possible to track how well country-level progress is being made in achieving the goals set forth in the Paris Climate Agreement.  The method outlined is based on the so-called “Kaya identity” which relates CO2 emissions to the product of GDB, energy intensity of GDP, and carbon intensity of energy.  It further decomposes the carbon intensity of energy into the share of fossil fuels in total use and carbon intensity of fossil-fuel combustion.

The authors apply the method to data covering the period 1990 through 2015 for China, the USA, the EU28 countries, India and “the rest of the world”.  Interestingly, the analysis demonstrates that the decline in the carbon intensity of fuel which has occurred within the US in recent years is due more to the substitution of natural gas for coal than it is to the expansion of renewable energy.  The EU carbon intensity decline is dominated by the growing share of renewables.

The study also shows that, “Although there has been strong growth in solar and wind power recently, the growth in global energy use has largely been dominated by increases in fossil-fuel use and, to a lesser extent by nuclear and hydropower.”

The study goes on to conclude that, “although many key indicators are currently broadly consistent with emission scenarios that keep temperatures below 2oC, the continued lack of large-scale carbon capture and storage threatens 2030 targets and the longer-term Paris ambition of net-zero emissions”.