Walking away from a low-carbon economy? Recent and historical trends using a regional decomposition analysis

Luis Mundaca T., Anil Markandya, Jørgen Nørgaard

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Using the latest available data, this brief article attempts to provide the first regional decomposition analysis of CO2 emissions from fuel combustion. Covering eight regions of the world, determinants are estimated in relative and absolute terms for the period 1971–2010. We use the unparalleled 2010 global surge in CO2 emissions as a reference and entry point for the analysis. Overall, results show that most regions have recently performed worse than their historical trends and lack of meaningful progress is identified. Whereas specific drivers for certain regions suggest some level of continuous improvement (e.g. reduced energy intensity in Asia, decarbonisation of of energy supply in OECD Europe), they are incapable of offsetting the effects of economic growth and increased energy use. With the exception of Africa, most regions appear to have missed the ‘low-carbon economy opportunity’ provided by the 2008–2009 global financial crisis. Results suggest a lack of serious environmental effectiveness of regional policy portfolios aiming at reducing CO2 emissions. Highly ambitious energy efficiency and renewable energy policies across all regions are immediately needed. Additionally, absolute reductions in energy use from fossil fuels and resulting CO2 emissions are urgently required in rich regions if we are to align production and consumption patterns with maintaining global warming below the 2°C threshold.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnergy Policy
Pages (from-to)1471-1480
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Climate and energy policy
  • Low-carbon economy
  • Decomposition analysis

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