Britain and Norway avoid the 'carbon curse' of countries rich in fossil fuels

22 August, 2013

Countries rich in coal, oil and gas emit more carbon dioxide to generate the same amount of economic output as countries where fossil fuels are scarce, says an Oxford University study. The authors call this the 'carbon curse', suggesting that Britain and Norway were the only two fuel-producing countries that have largely managed to avoid it.

The study, published in the journal Energy Policy, claims that in an era of unprecedented climate change, a minimum of carbon dioxide should be emitted to generate a maximum of economic wealth and human welfare, and points out that fuel-rich countries have to date been a neglected category in the current policy debate on climate change mitigation.  The study says that during the 2000s the world economy decarbonised by 0.77% per year, but this was more than offset by economic growth so overall carbon emissions kept rising. Only seven countries managed to decarbonise more quickly than their economies were growing and, apart from Britain and Russia, none of them had any significant fossil fuel reserves. By contrast, most OPEC members have not only grown economically but have also become more carbon intensive in the process.

'The carbon curse: Are fuel rich countries doomed to high CO2 intensities?' by Joerg Friedrichs and Oliver Inderwildi has been published by Energy Policy on 22 August 2013.

The paper can be viewed online at