The growth in global carbon emissions is expected to stall in 2015, researchers announced on Monday.
According to a study from the University of East Anglia and the Global Carbon Project, emissions from burning fossil fuels could fall by as much as 0.6 percent this year, after it grew by only 0.6 percent last year.
Emissions have declined in the past, but usually during times of economic problems. If 2015 plays out as the research suggests, this would be the first time there’s been a decline during a time of global economic growth.
The average annual growth in emissions over the last 15 years has been about 2 or 3 percent, the head of the study said in a statement.
The study said declining coal use in China has driven down emissions around the world. The U.S., the second-largest carbon emitter, is projected to see its emissions fall by 1.4 percent in 2015, similar to declines in other years.
But officials said the decline is unlikely to stick even as the world continues its transition to cleaner energy. And the study follows separate reports that have shown record concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, something researchers warn could exacerbate climate change.
“With two years of untypical emissions growth, it looks like the trajectory of global emissions might have changed temporarily,” said Corinne Le Quéré, the director of the Tyndall Centre at the University of East Anglia.
“It is unlikely that emissions have peaked for good. This is because energy needs for growing economies still rely primarily on coal, and emissions decreases in some industrial countries are still modest at best.”
The research comes as world leaders huddle in Paris to work on a deal cutting carbon emissions around the world in the years ahead.
The deal, which negotiators hope to secure by the end of the week, is based around specialized carbon reduction goals for each country. The United States has pledged a 26 percent to 28 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2025.
While calling the study “good news,” chief U.S. climate negotiator Todd Stern said Monday that it has not played much of a role in the ongoing talks over the climate deal.
“It hasn’t come up,” he told reporters in Paris.
“That’s obviously good news, but at this point in a negotiation like this, people are pretty focused on the business at hand. So what’s going on around them, maybe they’re not as aware of them as they usually would be.”