Carbon emission worsening, says expert


Global carbon dioxide emissions are set to rise again this year to a new record of 35.6 billion tonnes – 2.6 per cent higher than in 2011, according to the University of East Anglia’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

In a report released to coincide with the UN’s 18th climate change conference in Doha, it said the 2012 total would be 58 per cent higher than the levels of CO2 recorded in 1990 – baseline year for the Kyoto Protocol, due to expire at the end of this month. The latest analysis, published yesterday in the Nature Climate Change journal, underlined the growing gap between “real-world emissions” and the much lower levels required to keep global warming below the agreed target of two degrees.

Tyndall Centre director Prof Corinne Le Quéré called for a radical plan, saying that “the risks of dangerous climate change are too high on our current emissions trajectory” and it seemed to her “as if no one is listening to the entire scientific community”.

The report noted that China’s CO2 emissions grew by 9.9 per cent in 2011 and India’s by 7.5 per cent, while those of the US and the EU decreased by 1.8 per cent and 2.8 per cent, respectively – at least partly due to the economic recession.

Broken down in terms of emissions per capita, China’s worked out at 6.6 tonnes – nearly as high as those of the EU, at 7.3 tonnes, but still well below the 17.2 tonnes of the US. Emissions in India were much lower, at just 1.8 tonnes per person.

Think tank

According to the World Energy Council, an independent think tank, the world is “far away from achieving environmentally sustainable energy systems” and countries must do more to balance the “trilemma” of energy security, social equity and environmental impact. The top 10 performers in its latest “energy sustainability index” were Sweden, Switzerland, Canada, Norway, Finland, New Zealand, Denmark, Japan, France and Austria. Ireland came 30th overall, but fell to 57th place for energy security.

Council chairman Pierre Gadonneix said all countries were facing challenges in their transition towards more secure, environmentally friendly and equitable energy systems. “If we are to have any chance of . . . meeting the two degree goal, we need to get real.” But UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said it wasn’t just up to delegates in Doha to meet this challenge; she didn’t detect “much public interest [or] support for governments to take on more ambitious and more courageous decisions” to cut emissions.

National interests

Although governments were aware of the need for urgent action, they also had to reconcile national interests, from oil-producing countries to small island states which want more radical action to slow rising sea levels. “That is where we have a gap,” she said.

Ms Figueres, who is executive director of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, predicted the Doha talks would end with countries agreeing on a compromise package that would fall short of “the level of ambition that we need”. However, it is expected that the Kyoto Protocol will be renewed in some form, even though Canada, Japan and Russia have made it clear that they will not take part in it, while the US will continue to be an outsider as long as China refrains.

Last year’s Durban climate conference agreed to launch a new set of negotiations – the “Durban Platform” – with a view to reaching agreement by 2015 on a more comprehensive climate-protection regime. This wouldn’t take effect until 2020.