China is the world’s largest carbon emitter – in 2012, they used almost as much coal as the rest of the world combined. Which is why it was so important that theypledged at the Paris climate talks to hit peak carbon emissions by 2030. Now a new working paper reveals they may have achieved their goal before they even set it.

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Looking at data from 2014-2015, Fergus Green and Lord Nicholas Stern discovered that China’s emissions may have peaked already – back in 2014. At the very least, they maintain China will achieve its Paris pledge before 2025.

According to their research published in the journal Climate Policy, 2000-2013 was a unique period for China. The country’s carbon footprint was massive, largely because their economy was exploding. China’s answer was coal, which polluted cities like Beijing and Shanghai to the point where Chinese children not only had snow days, they had smog days.

So China turned to cleaner energies. They’ve advanced their infrastructure for alternative energy, and that combined with a slowing economy has led to slightly bluer skies. The country has gradually shifted away from coal to hydroelectric, nuclear, wind, and solar power. Between 2010 and 2014, Green and Stern found that China’s generation capacity for alternative energy increased by 73 percent.

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“Based on our analysis of likely future trends, we concluded that China’s CO2 emissions from energy – if they grow at all – are likely to grow much more slowly than under the old economic model and are likely to peak at some point in the decade before 20205,” they said.

Green and Stern believe that even if the economy picks up speed again, enough clean energy is in place. They predict that China’s carbon emissions will continue declining. They ended their paper with a reminder for all countries to keep working together to avoid climate change catastrophe.

“…the pace and scale of change in China, and the many uncertainties attending projections of its future emissions, reinforce the virtue of a dynamic approach to international climate cooperation, as envisaged under the Paris agreement…” said Green and Stern.

China may still have a long way to go, but this is one hopeful trend that could be a significant contribution to the battle for a cleaner, greener planet.

Via The Guardian

Images via Mike Behnken on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons