Smart Government Policies Lead to a Drop in CO2 in 18 Countries

The countries that had more climate change policies showed a greater decrease in emissions


(Valery Kaynovr /

We hear about the UK’s amazing windpower, geothermal energy in Iceland, and Germany closing its coal plants, but is this switch to renewables really making a difference?

The answer is yes. Efforts to cut Co2 emissions and to confront climate change head on are beginning to pay off according to research led by the Tyndall Centre at the University of East Anglia (UEA).

The study that was published in Nature Climate shows that countries that have policies to reduce Co2 emissions by using renewables is paying off for 18 developed countries (all were in europe except for the US) that account for 28 percent of global emissions and includes the US, UK, France and Germany.

The research analyzed the changes, and the reasons behind them, in countries where emissions had significant declines from 2005 to 2015. The countries that had the largest Co2 reductions were the ones with the largest amount of energy and climate control policies in place and were due to an increase in renewables and a decrease in energy use.

"In the countries where there's more policy in place, the decreases in emissions were larger," said Corinne Le Quéré, a Canadian professor of climate change science at the University and the lead researcher of the study. "That suggests that the policies do work."

Some of the drops in energy use was explained by lower economic growth that reduced the demand in energy during the global financial crisis of 2008-2009 but that could also be contributed to more electric cars on the roads and more efficient heating systems according to CBC News.

The researchers found that the two countries in the control group was that after removing economic growth data, energy efficiency was positively linked to cuts in carbon emissions. "Really, this study shows it's not a mystery. We have the technology: you put the effort in place, you develop the policies, you fund them, and then you get emission decreases," Le Quéré said in a University of East Anglia press release.

The study concluded that the data proves that efforts to reduce emissions is working in many countries but that these efforts need to be increases if climate change is going to be held to below the 2°C of warming, the target of the Paris Agreement.

“Our findings suggest that policies to tackle climate change are helping to decrease emissions in many countries. This is good news, but this is just the start," Le Quéré said in the press release. "There is a long way to go to cut global emissions down to near zero, which is what is needed to stop climate change. Deploying renewable energy worldwide is a good step but by itself it is not enough; fossil fuels also have to be phased out."

Dr. Charles Wilson also from UEA: "New scientific research on climate change tends to ring the alarm bells even more loudly. Our findings add a thin glimmer of hope. It is possible for countries to peak and then decline their emissions year in and year out."

These 18 countries have shown that a combined effort of policy and action on energy efficiency, renewables and targets on climate change can work according to Wilson. "Now we must make sure that these early precedents become the rule and not the exception. This is a huge global challenge," he said.

At a time when the world seems headed to catastrophic climate change, the study shows that there is hope that we are going in the right direction.