Global emissions of carbon dioxide reach record 34bn tonnes

Tue, Jul 24, 2012, 01:00

GLOBAL EMISSIONS of carbon dioxide (CO2) increased by 3 per cent last year, reaching an all-time high of 34 billion tonnes, according to figures compiled by the European Commission’s research unit and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.

For the first time, per capita emissions in China – the world’s most populous country – almost reached European levels, after a 9 per cent increase in 2011 to 7.2 tonnes for each of its 1.34 billion people. EU emissions were 7.5 tonnes per capita, down by 3 per cent. “China is now within the range of six to 19 tonnes per capita emissions of the major industrialised countries”, the commission’s Joint Research Centre said.

The US remains one of the largest emitters of CO2, with 17.3 tonnes per capita.

Weak economic conditions, a mild winter last year and energy savings stimulated by relatively high oil prices led to the decrease of 3 per cent in CO2 emissions in the EU and of 2 per cent in both the US and Japan, the latest figures show. But overall emissions continued to grow.

The 3 per cent increase in 2011 is above the past decade’s average. Leading emitters were China, (29 per cent of the global total), the US (16 per cent), the EU (11 per cent), India (6 per cent), the Russian Federation (5 per cent) and Japan (4 per cent).

A cumulative total of 420 billion tonnes of CO2 were emitted between 2000 and 2011. Emissions from the 34 developed country members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development now account for only one-third of global CO2 emissions.

Scientists say limiting the rise in average global temperatures to 2 degrees would be possible only if cumulative emissions in the period to 2050 do not exceed 1,000-1,500 billion tonnes. If the current trend continues, emissions will surpass this limit within 20 years.

“Fortunately, this trend is being mitigated by the expansion of renewable energy supplies, especially solar and wind energy and biofuels, [which] is growing at an accelerated speed and quadrupled from 1992 to 2011”, the Joint Research Centre said.

The figures were compiled from the latest scientific information and data from international statistics on energy production and consumption, industrial manufacturing, agricultural production, waste treatment/disposal and the burning of biomass.

The Trends in the Global CO2 Emissions report is available at