2010 carbon emissions hit record high

Carbon emissions in 2010 were the highest in history, casting doubts onto the world target of a 2% rise in temperature. According to the latest estimates by the International Energy […]

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By Vicky Ellis

Carbon emissions in 2010 were the highest in history, casting doubts onto the world target of a 2% rise in temperature.

According to the latest estimates by the International Energy Agency (IEA), energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions climbed to a record 30.6 Gigatonnes (Gt) in 2010, a 5% jump from the previous record year in 2008, when levels reached 29.3 Gt.

The figures serve as a stark warning, said Dr Fatih Birol, Chief Economist at the IEA who oversees the annual World Energy Outlook report: “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 2ºC 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.”

World targets fixed at UN climate talks in Cancun in 2010 set a temperature increase to 2°C. For this to be achieved, the IEA believes that global energy-related emissions in 2020 must not be greater than 32 Gt.

The IEA has also estimated that 80% of projected emissions from the power sector in 2020 are already locked in, as they will come from power plants that are currently in place or under construction today.

Dr Birol added this was a worry: “This 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 2ºC.”

In terms of fuels, 44% of the estimated CO2 emissions in 2010 came from coal, 36% from oil, and 20% from natural gas.