China led a rise in global carbon dioxide emissions to a record high last year, more than offsetting falls in the US and Europe, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said yesterday.
Worldwide carbon emissions rose by 1.4 percent to 31.6 billion tonnes, according to estimates from the Paris-based IEA.
China is the biggest emitter and made the largest contribution to the global rise, spewing out an additional 300 million tonnes. However, the gain was one of the lowest China has seen in a decade, reflecting its efforts to adopt renewable sources and improve energy efficiency.
In the US, a switch from coal to gas in power generation helped reduce emissions by 200 million tonnes, bringing them back to the level of the mid-1990s.
Even though the use of coal increased in some European countries last year due to low prices, emissions in Europe declined by 50 million tonnes because of the economic slowdown, growth in renewable energy and emissions caps on industrial and power companies, the IEA said.
Japan’s carbon emissions increased by 70 million tonnes, as efforts to improve energy efficiency failed to offset increasing use of fossil fuels after the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster in 2011.
Scientists say global average temperature rise needs to be limited to below 2oC this century to prevent devastating climate effects, like crop failure and melting glaciers.
That would only be possible if emission levels are kept to about 44 billion tonnes of carbon equivalent by 2020.
However, the IEA said the data shows the world is on a path to an average temperature rise of between 3.6oC and 5.3oC.
“Global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 are projected to be nearly 4 billion tonnes higher than a level consistent with attaining the 2oC target, highlighting the scale of the challenge still to be tackled just in this decade,” the agency said.
It urged governments to quickly adopt four policies that would ensure climate goals could be reached without harming economic growth. They are: improving energy efficiency in buildings, industry and transport; limiting the construction and use of inefficient power plants; halving methane emissions; and partially phasing out fossil fuel subsidies.
These would reduce global energy-related emissions by 8 percent or 3.1 billion tonnes of carbon equivalent in 2020, the agency said.
“Delaying stronger climate action to 2020 would come at a cost: US$1.5 trillion in low-carbon investments are avoided before 2020, but US$5 trillion in additional investments would be required thereafter to get back on track,” the IEA said.
International negotiators are meeting in Bonn, Germany, until Friday for UN talks aimed at getting a new global climate treaty, which would cut emissions, signed by 2015. However, the talks got off to a slow start last week due to attempts by three nations to amend one of the meeting’s many agendas to discuss how future decisions should be made.