The increase in global carbon dioxide emissions slowed last year because of a shift towards renewable energy usage, a major new study claims.

A report by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and the European Commission's Joint Research Centre found that in 2012 the increase in global emissions slowed to 1.1%.

This was less than half the average annual increase over the past decade of 2.9% and, significantly, appeared to suggest a break in the link between global economic growth and increasing emissions. Global GDP grew by 2.5% last year.

The report said this “remarkable” trend was most pronounced in the world’s three worst emitting areas – China, the US and Europe. China’s emissions increased by 3% last year, compared to an average of 10% over the past decade, while the US and EU emissions decreased by 4% and 1.6% respectively.

The study ascribed this trend to a shift to less fossil fuel-intensive activities and a greater deployment of renewable energy, which accounted for 2.4% of the global energy mix in 2012.

The study said the trend could herald a “permanent” slowdown in CO2 emissions as long as these three countries and regions continue to cut total energy use and increase the amount of renewable energy they use.