Steep increase in global CO2 emissions despite reductions by industrialised countries with binding Kyoto targets

September 29, 2011 | 00:00

Steep increase in global CO2 emissions despite reductions by industrialised countries with binding Kyoto targets

After a 1% decline in 2009, global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions increased by more than 5% in 2010, which is unprecedented in the last two decades, but similar to the increase in 1976 when the global economy was recovering from the first oil crisis and subsequent stock market crash. CO2 emissions went up in most of the major economies, led by China and India with increases of 10% and 9% respectively.

The average annual growth rate in CO2 emissions over the last three years of the credit crunch, including a 1% increase in 2008 when the first impacts became visible, is 1.7%, almost equal to the long-term annual average of 1.9% for the preceding two decades back to 1990. However, most industrialised countries have not recovered fully from their decreases in emissions of 7 to 12% in 2009.

The industrialised countries that have ratified the Kyoto Protocol plus the non-ratifying USA have emitted approximately 7.5% less CO2 in 2010 than in 1990 and collectively remain on target to meet the original Kyoto
Protocol objective of a 5.2% reduction. However, there are large national differences, with for instance over the period 1990 – 2010 decreases in CO2 emissions in the EU and Russia, increases in the USA and stabilisation in Japan. The efforts of the industrialised countries are increasingly hidden in the global picture where their share of CO2 emissions has dropped from about two-thirds to less than half since 1990. Continued growth in the developing nations and economic recovery in the industrialised countries are the main reasons for a record breaking 5.8% increase in 2010 in global CO2 emissions to an absolute maximum of 33.0 billion ton. Increased energy end-use efficiency, nuclear energy and the growing contribution from renewable energy cannot yet compensate for the globally increasing demand for power and transport. This illustrates the large and joint effort still required for mitigating climate change.

These preliminary estimates have been made by the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) on the basis of energy consumption data for 2008 to 2010 recently published by BP. The estimates are also based on production data for cement, lime, ammonia and steel and emissions per country from 1970 to 2008 from version 4.2 of the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR), a joint project of JRC and PBL.

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