The prospect of reaching global 2020 greenhouse gas emission targets is "getting bleaker," the International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned after emissions of energy-related emissions reached a record high in 2010.
Emissions of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) reached a new high of 30.6 billion tonnes (Gt) in 2010, the IEA estimated. The previous record was 29.3 Gt in 2008. Emissions in 2009 dipped because of the global financial crisis, it said.
"Our latest estimates
are another wake-up
call ... unless bold and
decisive decisions are
made very soon, it will
challenging to succeed
in achieving the global
goal agreed in Cancun."
Fatih Birol, IEA
The IEA estimates that 40% of global emissions came from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) group of developed nations. These countries accounted for one-quarter of emissions growth compared with 2009, the IEA said. Non-OECD countries - particularly China and India - saw much stronger increases in emissions as their economic growth accelerated. On a per capita basis, OECD countries emitted an average of 10 tonnes of CO2
, compared with 5.8 tonnes in China and 1.5 tonnes in India.
In terms of fuel, some 44% of the estimated CO2 emissions in 2010 came from the burning of coal, 36% from oil, and 20% from natural gas. The IEA estimates that some 80% of projected CO2 emissions from the power sector in 2020 are already 'locked in', as they will come from either existing power plants or plants currently under construction.
At a December 2010 meeting of the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico, global leaders agreed to a package of agreements aimed at limiting global temperature increase to 2°C. The IEA says that for this target to be reached, the long-term concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere must be limited to around 450 parts per million (ppm) of CO2-equivalent, only a 5% increase compared to an estimated 430 ppm in 2000.
In the latest edition of the IEA's World Energy Outlook, published in November 2010, the organisation says that for the 450 ppm concentration to be achieved, global energy-related emissions in 2020 must not be greater than 32 Gt. This can only happen, it said, if there is a rapid transformation of the global energy system.
Fatih Birol, chief economist at the IEA, commented: "The significant increase in CO2 emissions and the locking in of future emissions due to infrastructure investments represent a serious setback to our hopes of limiting the global rise in temperature to no more than 2°C." He added, "Our latest estimates are another wake-up call. The world has edged incredibly close to the level of emissions that should not be reached until 2020 if the 2°C target is to be attained. Given the shrinking room for manoeuvre in 2020, unless bold and decisive decisions are made very soon, it will be extremely challenging to succeed in achieving this global goal agreed in Cancun."
Reacting to the latest IEA estimates, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said, "This is the inconvenient truth of where human-generated greenhouse gas emissions are projected to go without much stronger international action now ... and into the future."
She added, "Governments are meeting next week in Bonn to prepare for the next major international climate conference to be held in Durban at the end of the year. It is clear that they need to push the world further down the right track to avoid dangerous climate change. I won't hear that this is impossible. Governments must make it possible for society, business and science to get this job done."
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News