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Long term trends in global CO2 emissions

This excellent EU reports tells us – up to 2010 – where the world is in terms of carbon emission trajectories.  Over 2009 to 2010 there was a rapid switch back to trend in global carbon emissions.  World emissions fell by 1% in 2009 but rose by more than 5% in 2010, an unprecedented increase over the past 2 decades but comparable to what happened when the world economy recovered in 1976 from the effects of the first oil crisis.  The emissions growth in 2010 was dominated by India and China whose emissions grew by 9 and 10% respectively. The world is returning to high rates of overall CO2 emissions after a brief respite offered by the financial crisis.

The industrialised countries who ratified the Kyoto Protocol cut their emissions in 201o to a level 7.5% below year 1990 levels.  The picture however is being blurred by the emerging countries such as India and China which increased their fraction of total emissions over this period from 1/3 to 1/2. In 2010 33 billion tons of CO2 were poured into the atmosphere, the highest level in world history. Industrialised countries will, overall, hit their Kyoto targets though there is considerable variation in national responses.

Converging per capita emissions levels are becoming very interesting.  China now emits 6.8t/capita CO2 compared to the EU-27’s 8.1t and the US’s 16.9t. China is catching up to the low carbon developing countries.  The enormous sleeper whose emissions have the potential to expand enormously is India whose per capita emissions at 1.7t/capita – a tiny fraction of developed country levels. Both India and China have relatively high levels of CO2 emissions per dollar of output  – they have high emissions intensities – indicating huge potential for ‘no regrets’ energy conservation policies of the type currently comprising much of their CO2 mitigation response.

An excellent report and well worth reading.

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