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UNFCCC Reports Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trending Upward; Transport a Key Problem

Percentage change in greenhouse emissions from industrialized countries, 1990-2004. Click to enlarge.

The secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) today released new data showing an upward trend in greenhouse gas emissions of industrialized countries (Annex I parties to the UNFCCC) in the period 2000–2004.

Overall, according to the report, emissions of industrialized countries decreased by 3.3% in the period 1990–2004. However, this was mostly due to a 36.8% decrease in emissions on the part of economies in transition (EITs) of eastern and central Europe (EITs). Within the same time period, the greenhouse gas emissions of the other industrialized Parties of the Convention grew by 11.0%.

The UNFCCC report Greenhouse Gas Data, 2006 constitutes the first complete set of data submitted by all 41 industrialized Parties of the Convention to the Bonn-based secretariat.

The worrying fact is that EITs, which were mostly responsible for the overall emissions reductions of industrialized countries so far, as a group have experienced an emission increase of 4.1 per cent in the period 2000-2004. This means that industrialized countries will need to intensify their efforts to implement strong policies which reduce greenhouse gas emissions

—UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer

Emissions from transportation on the rise. Click to enlarge.

In particular, transport remains a sector where emission reductions are urgently required but seem to be especially difficult to achieve. Emissions from transportation grew by 23.9% from 1990 to 2004.

According to the released data, the joint emissions of the industrialized countries that are Parties to the Kyoto Protocol were 15.3% below the 1990 level in 2004, while the individual performance of countries varied. The Kyoto Protocol presently requires 35 industrialized countries and the European Community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5% below 1990 levels in its first commitment period between 2008 and 2012.

Some points that emerge from the data are:

  • The GHG decrease from 1990–2004 for Kyoto partner countries is combined with economic growth.

  • Greenhouse gas intensity continues to decrease—there are increasingly fewer GHG emissions per GDP unit.

  • The US is the industrialized country with greatest GHG emissions (39% in 2004); GHG intensity in the US continues to decline. From 1990 to 2004, GDP increased 51.2% and GHG emissions increased 15.8%; From 2000 to 2004, GDP increased 11.7% and GHG emissions increased 1.3%.

  • Germany is the non-EIT country with the greatest emission decreases since 1990. From 1990 to 2004, German GDP increased 28.6% while GHG emissions dropped 17.2%. From 2000 to 2004, German GDP rose 2.5% while GHG emissions dropped 0.7%.

  • Russia is the industrialized country with 2nd greatest GHG emissions (11% in 2004) and is the EIT country with greatest emissions. From 1990 to 2004, Russian GDP dropped 13.1% and GHG emissions dropped 32%. From 2000 to 2004, Russian GDP increased 26.1% and GHG emissions increased 4.1%.

  • Turkey is a new Annex I member (since 2004) and has very rapid economic growth. Turkish GDP increased 65.9% from 1990 to 2004 with GHG emissions increases of 72.6%. From 2000 to 2004, Turkish GDP grew 16.4% while GHG emissions increased 5.3%.

The UN’s chief climate change official pointed out that despite the emission growth in some countries in the period 2000-2004, Parties of the Kyoto Protocol stand a good chance of meeting their individual emissions reduction commitments if they speedily apply the additional domestic mitigation measures they are planning and use the Kyoto Protocol’s market-based flexibility mechanisms.

One promising option for meeting the Kyoto Protocol targets is the use of the clean development mechanism (CDM). The CDM permits industrialized countries to invest in sustainable development projects that reduce emissions in developing countries and thereby generate tradable emission credits. To date, around 375 CDM projects have been registered, with a total estimated emission reduction potential of more than 600 million tonnes. More than 900 more projects are in the pipeline.

The total estimated emission reduction potential of all projects currently in the CDM pipeline in the period up to 2012 stands at around 1.4 billion tonnes, which amounts to about 12% of what industrialized Kyoto Protocol Parties emitted in 1990.

Last week, the UNFCCC launched the second project-based mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol: joint implementation (JI), which allows developed countries to acquire carbon credits from greenhouse gas emission reducing projects undertaken in other industrialized countries.

In the countries that are members of the European Union, the use of the EU emissions trading scheme is growing in importance. We are looking forward to emissions trading between all countries with emission targets under the Kyoto Protocol when the first commitment period starts in 2008.

At the same time, it is clear that further global action on climate change is urgently needed to generate significant investment flows into clean technology, making use of existing and new market mechanisms.

—Secretary Yvo de Boer

At the United Nations Climate Change Conference - Nairobi 2006 (6 to 17 November), negotiations on the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol will continue, along with a dialogue on the future of the climate change process under the UNFCCC.




This is interesting. Found this article earlier what I read here.

The European Union, self-styled global champion in the battle against climate change, is falling woefully short of its targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and will need to take radical measures to achieve them, new projections have shown.

The European commission said that, based on current measures and policies, the emissions of the EU's original 15 members will be just 0.6% below 1990 levels by 2010. The EU-15 countries are committed under the Kyoto protocol to an 8% cut on 1990 levels by 2012.

My opinion is that it doesn't matter what policies that politicians want to implement as long as there is no practical replacement for fossil fuels for energy production. This is why the Kyoto Protocol is nothing but a band-aid, because as noted, absolute GHG emissions are still increasing even with increasing efficiency (see Jevon's Paradox).


absolute GHG emissions are still increasing even with increasing efficiency (see Jevon's Paradox)

No, see "Population Growth".


And economic growth.


"According to the released data, the joint emissions of the industrialized countries that are Parties to the Kyoto Protocol were 15.3% below the 1990 level in 2004"

I hardly think that this demonstrates that Kyoto or actions by government are hopeless. Policies do matter. The United States, however, has increased its co2 emissions since 1990 by almost 20%. Overall GHG emissions, as noted above, increased by more than 15%. The U.S. failed to sign up to Kyoto and it has refused to implement significant policies, such as higher gas taxes, to decrease emissions.

The issue, for now, isn't whether there are practical alternatives to fossil fues; the issue is that there is a lot of low hanging fruit out there with respect to efficiency, conservation, and a change in consumer behavior. These are all impacted by government policy.

While you are entitled to your personal opinion, it is not based upon the facts but based upon what you want to believe about government policy.

Look at Germany. The German government has made a concerted effort to encourage alternatives like solar and wind and encourage conservation. These policies have paid off and are a direct result of government policy, not magic.

The performance by the U.S. is to be expected because it has feckless leadership that has spent most of its time in office in denial about global warming. Promising alternatives like hydrogen does nothing to address the problem, which is right now.

Harvey D.

A good reminder.

The performance of an exporting nation like Germany (-17.2%)is exceptional. United Kingdom with (-14.3%)deserves a good hand.

Canada with a shameful (+26.6%), or about (+14%) without the Alberta tar sands activities, is NOT trying very hard or rather not trying at all. USA (the receiver of the Tar Sands end products) with (+15.8%) is in the same boat. Canada/USA will have to do much better in the next 5 to 10 years but the trend is NOT changing yet. Canada may even be at (+40% to +50%) by 2012/2015 when the planned tar sands activities are doubled.


When nations see that you can have an expanding economy and reduce CO2, then we might make some progress.


One wonders if all the analysis of emissions nets out the use of material from other countries which causes polution in its production. For example, does Germany mine and smelt aluminum? If not, should they be responsible for the emissions created by the production of the aluminum they use in their factories?

Or take refineries. Should the US be responsible for the emissions from the refining of gasoline and other products that it imports?

In other words, its a global problem where proper analysis requires much more than the measurement of emissions from one geographic area called a country.



Quite right. It is our ultimate consumption as the end consumer that makes much of the difference. On the other hand, however, are we not responsible for the co2 from products that we export? This just points up the fact that carbon needs to be taxed at all stages of production with the cost of the tax being passed on at each stage.

To the extent that China, for example, is able to produce cheaper goods because it uses cheaper coal to produce them, this gives it another competitive advantage which should be remedied by taxes. If it refuses to sign up to an international framework which requires this, then countries should impose these carbon taxes as another form of duty. Same logic applies to other environmental and other social regulations which drive up the cost of goods.

Rafael Seidl

Pizmo raises a good point. It's not really appropriate to assess these numbers out of context.

In 1990, Germany had just reunited and pretty much the entire, extremely dirty East German heavy industry shut down. That suggests it's strong improvement is not entirely due to its commitment to solar, wind, etc.

Spain and Portugal joined the EU in 1986, after decades of economic isolation under their respective fascist dictatorships. Turkey emerged from its own military dictatorship more recently and has been booming ever since.

My own country, Austria, looks like a laggard at +15.4% but consider that we were already getting most of our electricity from hydro back in 1990. We also already had one of the densest public transport networks in Europe. Ergo, we no longer had as much low-hanging fruit. Moreover, we took in hundreds of thousands of refugees from the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, most of whom have been allowed to stay. We've also absorbed a large number of asylum-seekers and migrants from various Eastern Europe countries. As a result, our resident population has grown by almost 15% over the period.

The US and Australia have also experienced explosive population growth recently, largely thanks to immigration.

Perhaps it would be more fruitful to look at CO2 per unit of GDP and CO2 per resident in both 1990 and 2004.


The one thing that can massively reduce emissions gets almost no attention: replace coal with nuclear. Every other measure is either expensive or coercive, and coal produces a good 50% or more of most countries emissions.

Rafael Seidl

Dezakin -

whatever made you think that nuclear power was cheap? The construction, waste disposal and decommissioning are all extremely expensive. Future costs are routinely underestimated and, the bill inevitably lands in the taxpayers' lap.

With reserves of primary uranium on the decline, multiple reprocessing stages would become essential to achieve adequate lifespans for any new wave of reactors. That means moving highly radioactive waste around and concentrating that radioactivity at every step of the way. Plus, places North Korea and Iran will want to dabble in all this as well, at which point nuclear gets REALLY expensive.

If we do decide to get out of coal to mitigate global warming, shouldn't we leapfrog nuclear and head straight for a mix renewables like wind, solar, hydro and biofuels? A few hundred billion dollars, spread out over 20 or 30 years, seems like a manageable financial burden for the US taxpayer. Other countries, e.g. Germany and Denmark, are already further along the curve.


Nuclear power economics:

As for reserves of uranium being on the decline, consider we have about 1 trillion tons of uranium recoverable from shales to the high grade ores in todays mines, well enough to run 20000 light water reactors in the once through process for 25000 years. When you incorporate thorium in liquid flouride reactors, then we have about 1/4 of a billion years of fuel left.

Discounting nuclear, which is really the only alternative capable of displacing coal today, is simply naive. If Germany doesnt recind the nuclear phase out, they'll either break all of their kyoto commitments or import vast amounts of nuclear electricity from France.


There's a real objective source. :)



That kind of investment should come from the private sector, not taxation. What government can do is provide incentives to develop new technology, then step out of the way and let the market go to work.


That kind of investment should come from the private sector, not taxation. What government can do is provide incentives to develop new technology, then step out of the way and let the market go to work.

Jesus, man, give it a rest. WE GET IT - YOU HATE GOVERNMENT. It's not hard to grasp the concept.

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