A new international study revealed on Monday good news for the planet amid looming uncertainty on the climate change policies of President-elect Donald Trump.
Worldwide carbon emission levels did not increase in 2015 and remained flat for the third year in a row in 2016, said climate researchers from the Global Carbon Project and the University of East Anglia (UEA).
In fact, carbon dioxide emissions from industry and burning fossil fuels are expected to rise a meager 0.2 percent in 2016 from 2015 levels.
This meant that worldwide emissions flattened to 36.4 billion metric tons, making 2016 the third consecutive year with negligible change, researchers said.
Temporary Blip Or Permanent Trend?
The authors of the study believe it is far too early to conclude that the world has reached a peak in carbon emission decline. They said it is unclear whether the flat carbon emission level is a temporary blip in numbers or a permanent trend.
However, some experts are optimistic, saying the dip in numbers could be the "turning point" they have hoped for.
Professor David Reay from the University of Edinburgh, who was not involved in the study, said that to fight against climate change, the bonds between carbon emissions growth and economic gains must be broken.
"[H]ere we have the first signs that they are at least starting to loosen," said Ray.
Plot Twist: Slowdown Is Driven By China
The biggest surprise, however, came in the source of worldwide carbon emission slowdown, which scientists attributed to the decrease in consumption of coal in China since 2012. Coal is a huge source of carbon dioxide emissions.
"So far the slowdown has been driven by China," said Glen Peters, co-author of the study.
Peters said China's climate change policies would become the dominant force in the future because the country accounts for almost 30 percent of global emissions, followed by emissions from the United States.
The report said Chinese carbon dioxide emissions decreased 0.7 percent in 2015 and are estimated to dip 0.5 percent in 2016.
While researchers noted that energy statistics from China have been plagued with inconsistencies, they said the reductions in emissions still offer hope that the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases can deliver ambitious reductions.
By contrast, carbon dioxide emissions in many countries continue to rise, the report said. In India, emissions rose 5 percent in 2015.
Furthermore, the pro-coal policies of President-elect Donald Trump could put the climate action course set by his predecessor Barack Obama into danger.
Trump has called climate change a "hoax" and has mentioned pulling out the United States out of the Paris climate change accord. He has also pledged to scrap Obama's Clean Power Plan, which was designed to lessen carbon pollution in the country.
Meanwhile, Peters believes the growth of carbon emissions in the coming years will depend whether climate and energy policies can establish and lock in new trends, and more importantly, push for consistency to reach the goals of the Paris agreement.