Recession, an analysis has revealed, turned out beneficial for the environment! The main cause has been attributed to high oil prices that caused the growth of greenhouse gas emissions to drop by half in 2008.
According to a report in New Scientist, that is the conclusion of an analysis of preliminary data released yesterday by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (NEAA).
Emissions grew by 1.7 per cent in 2008, compared to 3.3 per cent in 2007.
The agency's analysis suggests that this was mostly because fossil fuel consumption decreased globally for the first time since 1992.
The researchers say a growing switch to biofuels in the US, Europe and China, encouraged by national climate and energy policies, helped contribute to the trend.
Biofuels accounted for 2.5 per cent of global fuel consumption in road transport in 2008, representing a gross saving of over 100 million tonnes in CO2 emissions.
According to a recent report by the United Nations Environment Programme, 2008 was the first year new investments in renewable energies were greater than investments in fossil-fuelled technologies.
While cheaper oil and greater incentives to use renewable fuels played a key part in slowing emissions, the global financial crisis, which kicked off in the autumn of 2008, also played a role by restricting industrial activity.
In particular, the high-energy steel production industry was hard hit. "Finally, the European emissions trading market demonstrated it could be effective in limiting emissions despite the criticism it has received," said Oliver.
"The scheme managed to get domestic CO2 emissions from large industries down by 3 per cent," he told New Scientist.
The data, from oil giant BP, also show that for the first time developing nations were responsible for pumping more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than developed nations and international transport combined.
According to Oliver, none of this means governments can sit back and relax.
Oil prices dropped at the end of the year, but are slowly climbing again, and no one knows how long the financial downturn will last.
"Governments would be wise to maintain their support for reducing fossil fuel use with energy conservation measures and by expanding renewable energy use," said Olivier.