Global emissions hit record levels

Global CO2 emissions hit a record high of 31.6 gigatonnes in 2011. According to the International Energy Association (IEA) the new peak, which is 1Gt higher than the year before, […]

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By Tom Gibson

Global CO2 emissions hit a record high of 31.6 gigatonnes in 2011. According to the International Energy Association (IEA) the new peak, which is 1Gt higher than the year before, threatens to scupper plans to prevent global warming.

The IEA has a climate change scenario which requires global CO2 emissions to reach a maximum of 32.6 Gt no later than 2017. This is necessary should we have a chance of limiting a 2°C global temperature increase needed to prevent disaster.

The ‘450 scenario’ is only 1Gt higher than last year’s emissions levels, painting a grim picture for the world’s climate ambitions.

IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol said: “The new data provide further evidence that the door to a 2°C trajectory is about to close.”

According to statistics from the IEA China was the largest contributor to the global increase, with its emissions rising by 720 million tonnes primarily due to higher coal consumption. However, the IEA said China was making the right moves to clean up its energy use.

“What China has done over such a short period of time to improve energy efficiency and deploy clean energy is already paying major dividends to the global environment”, Dr Birol added.

Coal accounted for 45% of total energy-related CO2 emissions in 2011, followed by oil (35%) and natural gas (20%).