IEA: 2010 Saw CO2 Emissions at Highest Levels Ever
Energy-related carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2010 were the highest in history, according to the latest estimates by the International Energy Agency (IEA).
After a dip in 2009 caused by the global financial crisis, emissions are estimated to have climbed to a record 30.6 Gigatonnes (Gt), a 5 percent jump from the previous record year in 2008, when levels reached 29.3 Gt.
In addition, the IEA has estimated that 80 percent of projected emissions from the power sector in 2020 are already locked in, as they will come from power plants that are in place or under construction today.
“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 2 degrees Celsius,” said Fatih Birol, chief economist at the IEA who oversees the annual World Energy Outlook, the agency’s flagship publication.
Global leaders agreed a target of limiting temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius at the UN climate change talks in Cancun in 2010. To achieve this goal, the long-term concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere must be limited to about 450 parts per million of CO2-equivalent, only a 5 percent increase compared with an estimated 430 parts per million in 2000.
The IEA’s 2010 World Energy Outlook set out the 450 Scenario, an energy pathway consistent with achieving this goal, based on the emissions targets countries have agreed to reach by 2020. To achieve this pathway, global energy-related emissions in 2020 must not be greater than 32 Gt. This means that over the next ten years, emissions must rise less in total than they did between 2009 and 2010.
“Our latest estimates are another wakeup call,” Birol said. “The world has edged incredibly close to the level of emissions that should not be reached until 2020 if the 2 degrees Celsius target is to be attained. Given the shrinking room for maneuver 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.”
In terms of fuels, 44 percent of the estimated CO2 emissions in 2010 came from coal, 36 percent from oil, and 20 percent from natural gas.
The challenge of improving and maintaining quality of life for people in all countries while limiting CO2 emissions has never been greater. While the IEA estimates that 40 percent of global emissions came from OECD countries in 2010, these countries accounted for only 25 percent of emissions growth compared with 2009. Non-OECD countries – led by China and India – saw much stronger increases in emissions as their economic growth accelerated.
However, on a per-capita basis, OECD countries collectively emitted 10 tonnes, compared with 5.8 tonnes for China, and 1.5 tonnes in