US global warming emissions reached new high last year

HOTTING UP: The new data comes two weeks after Washington said its voluntary measures to cut greenhouse gases were working effectively


Fri, Dec 23, 2005 - Page 7

Emissions of global warming gases from the US have nearly doubled in 14 years and reached an all-time high last year, according to figures released by the US government.

But new analysis suggests Europe is also falling behind in its attempt to meet legally binding UN targets.

The US energy department report shows emissions rose 2 percent last year and stood one year ago at 7,122.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent a year -- about 25 percent of the world total. The rise was the greatest in five years and is part of an accelerating trend. Revised figures also published showed emissions in 2003 were at the second highest level. This year's figures have not been published but are expected by analysts to be similar or greater because of strong US economic growth.

The data, released just two weeks after the US government claimed at the Montreal climate talks that its voluntary approach to cutting emissions was working, drew immediate criticism from European environment groups and academics.

Lord Rees, the president of the UK's Royal (science) Society, said the new data showed all industrialized countries needed to intensify efforts to cut emissions.

"At the G8 summit in Gleneagles in July, the US and other G8 countries agreed to `act with resolve and urgency to meet our shared and multiple objectives of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.' But these figures emphasize the need to act with even greater urgency and resolve now."

He said the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was about 380 parts per million, probably the highest for 20 million years and more than a third higher than before the industrial revolution.

"Industrialized countries will need to cut emissions by at least 60 percent by 2050 if we are to stabilize atmospheric concentrations at twice pre-industrial levels. It seems unlikely that the present US strategy ... will be enough," he said.

But there was little cheer for Europeans. A paper to be published next week suggests 10 of the 15 EU countries committed to reducing climate-change gases under the Kyoto agreement will fall short of their targets unless they take urgent action. Only the UK, Sweden and France are remotely on target, the Institute for Public Policy Research is expected to say. Emissions are rising in 13 of the 15 countries.

In a separate development, the governors of seven US states, frustrated by the federal government's refusal to set targets, yesterday signed up their states to work together to reduce global warming emissions. From 2009, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Vermont will begin trading carbon under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.