IEA estimates energy-related CO2 emissions in 2010 highest in history; 80% of projected 2020 emissions from the power sector are already locked in
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% jump from the previous record year in 2008, when levels reached 29.3 Gt.
In terms of fuels, 44% of the estimated CO2 emissions in 2010 came from coal, 36% from oil, and 20% from natural gas. In addition, the IEA has estimated that 80% of projected emissions from the power sector in 2020 are already locked in, as they will come from power plants that are currently in place or under construction today.
While the IEA estimates that 40% of global emissions came from OECD countries in 2010, these countries only accounted for 25% of emissions growth compared to 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 India.
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 2ºC.—Dr. Fatih Birol, Chief Economist at the IEA
Global leaders agreed a target of limiting temperature increase to 2 °C at the UN climate change talks in Cancun in 2010. For this goal to be achieved, the long-term concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere must be limited to around 450 parts per million of CO2-equivalent—a 5% increase compared to an estimated 430 parts per million in 2000—according to the IEA. Some scientists suggest the level must be even lower—i.e., 350 ppm. (Earlier post.)
The IEA’s 2010 World Energy Outlook set out the 450 Scenario, an energy pathway consistent with achieving the 450 ppm goal, based on the emissions targets countries have agreed to reach by 2020. For this pathway to be achieved, 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 wake-up call. The world has edged incredibly close to the level of emissions that should not be reached until 2020 if the 2ºC target is to be attained. Given the shrinking room for manœuvre 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.—Dr. Birol
These latest estimates from the IEA are “a stark warning” to governments to provide strong new progress this year towards global solutions to climate change, UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres said.
Governments are meeting next week in Bonn to prepare for the next major international climate conference to be held in Durban at the end of the year. It is clear that they need to push the world further down the right track to avoid dangerous climate change. I won’t hear that this is impossible. Governments must make it possible for society, business and science to get this job done.—Christiana Figueres
Figueres said that in Durban, governments will have two main challenges that they have agreed to resolve:
To strengthen the international conditions that will allow nations to work together to make deeper global emission cuts. This includes the question of deciding the future of the Kyoto Protocol.
To agree on the effective designs of the new climate institutions that will provide adequate and efficient climate support to developing countries. This includes the Green Climate Fund, Technology Mechanism and establishing the Adaptation Committee.