CO2 emissions reach record high

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Many governments are still failing miserably to keep global carbon emissions low enough to limit global warming to the two-degree-Centigrade international target.

Carbon dioxide emissions are set to rise yet again in 2012, reaching a record high of 35.6 billion tonnes, says the Global Carbon Project.

"These latest figures come amidst climate talks in Doha," says Professor Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and professor at the University of East Anglia.

"But with emissions continuing to grow, it's as if no-one is listening to the entire scientific community."

The 2.6 per cent rise projected for the year means global emissions from burning fossil fuel are 58 per cent above 1990 levels, the baseline year for the Kyoto Protocol.

The biggest contributors to global emissions in 2011 were China at 28 per cent, the United States at 16 per cent, the European Union at 11 per cent and India at seven per cent.

Emissions in China and India grew by 9.9 and 7.5 per cent respectively in 2011, while those of the US and the European Union fell by 1.8 and 2.8 per cent.

Emissions per person in China of 6.6 tonnes of CO2 were nearly as high as the 7.3 tonnes in the European Union, but still well below the 17.2 tonnes of carbon used in the US. Emissions in India were 1.8 tonnes per person.

The figures show that the world is falling ever further behind the target figure required to keep global warming below the international target of two degrees.

"I am worried that the risks of dangerous climate change are too high on our current emissions trajectory. We need a radical plan," says Le Quéré.

The analysis, published in Nature Climate Change, shows the need for significant reductions are needed by 2020 to keep two degrees as a feasible goal.

But, says the authors, efforts in Belgium, Denmark, France, Sweden, and the UK have already led to emission reductions as high as five per cent each year over decade-long periods.

"Scaling up similar energy transitions across more countries can kick-start global mitigation with low costs," says Dr Glen Peters of the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research in Norway. "To deepen and sustain these energy transitions in a broad range of countries requires aggressive policy drivers."