Global CO2 emissions up 3% in 2011; per capita CO2 emissions in China reach EU levels
20 July 2012
|CO2 per capita emissions from fossil fuel use and cement production from the top 5 emitting regions. Click to enlarge.|
Global emissions of CO2 increased by 3% last year, according to the annual report “Trends in global CO2 emissions”, released by the EC Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL). At 3%, the 2011 increase in global CO2 emissions is above the past decade’s average annual increase of 2.7%.
Weak economic conditions, a mild winter, and energy savings stimulated by high oil prices led to a decrease of 3% in CO2 emissions in the European Union and of 2% in both the United States and Japan. Emissions from OECD countries now account for only one third of global CO2 emissions—the same share as that of China and India combined, where emissions increased by 9% and 6% respectively in 2011. In China, the world’s most populous country, average emissions of CO2 increased by 9% to 7.2 tonnes per capita—within the range of 6 to 19 tonnes per capita emissions of the major industrialized countries.
In the European Union, CO2 emissions dropped by 3% to 7.5 tonnes per capita. The United States remain one of the largest emitters of CO2, with 17.3 tonnes per capita, despite a decline due to the recession in 2008-2009, high oil prices and an increased share of natural gas.
According to the report, the top emitters contributing to the global 34 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2011 are:
- China (29%)
- the United States (16%)
- the European Union (11%)
- India (6%)
- the Russian Federation (5%)
- Japan (4%)
An estimated cumulative global total of 420 billion tonnes of CO2 has been emitted between 2000 and 2011 due to human activities, including deforestation—representing between 28 to 42% of the 1,500 to 1,000 billion tonnes maximum for the period 2000-2050 required to keep the rise in average global temperature to 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, according to models.
Some of the findings of the report include:
Global consumption of coal (responsible for about 40% total CO2 emissions) grew in 2011 by 5%, whereas global consumption of natural gas and oil products increased by only 2% and 1%, respectively.
CO2 emissions from the cement clinker production process (the largest source of non-combustion-related CO2 emissions, contributing 4% to the global total) increased globally by 6%, mainly due to an 11% increase in China.
The much smaller amount of global CO2 emissions from gas flaring did not change significantly in 2011, with the largest increases occurring in the United States and Russia, and the largest decrease occurring in Libya.
Since 2002, annual economic growth in China accelerated from 4% to 11%, on average. CO2 emissions increased by 150% in China, and in India by 75%.
Since 1990, in China, CO2 emissions per capita increased from 2.2 to 7.2 tonnes, while they decreased in the EU27 from 9.2 to 7.5 tonnes per capita and in the United States from 19.7 to 17.3 tonnes per capita.
Global anthropogenic CO2 emissions have grown 50% in in the 20 years since 1992, when the UN Earth Summit was held in Rio de Janeiro. This growth in emissions caused an increase of 10% in the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, from 356 to 392 ppm.
Global fossil oil consumption increased by about 2.9% in 2011 (corrected for biofuels). China’s oil consumption increased by 5.5%, below the 10-year average, and accounted for two-thirds of the growth in trade in 2011, with oil imports increasing by 13%. The CO2 emission trends in OECD and non-OECD countries are diverging, with a 1.2% decline in OECD countries, the fifth decrease in the past six years versus a 2.8% increase in non-OECD countries.
Natural gas consumption increased globally by 2.2% in 2011, with below average consumption in all regions, except for North America, where low prices drove robust growth. The largest growth took place in China (+22%), Saudi Arabia (+13%) and Japan (+12%). However the European Union saw the largest decline on record, with -11%, mainly due to warm weather, a weak economy, high gas prices and continued growth in renewable electricity production.
Coal consumption increased globally by 5.4 % in 2011, which is an above average growth, and accounts for 30.3% of global energy consumption, the highest share since 1969. Coal consumption in China increased by 9.7% in 2011, accounting for 49% of global coal use and representing more than three quarters of global consumption growth in 2011.
The trends in CO2 emissions reflect the impact of policies aimed to improve energy efficiency and to increase the use of nuclear or renewable energy sources over that of fossil fuels. In this context, we can observe that some CO2 mitigation measures are increasingly applied in our society. One of the main CO2 reduction options is the use of ‘new’ renewable energy sources (excluding hydropower), such as solar and wind energy and biofuels. Although still very small, their share is increasing with accelerating speed: it took 12 years since 1992 to double the share from 0.5% to 1%, but only 6 more years to double it again to 2.1% in 2011.
These shares are based on the BP convention of 38% average thermal power conversion efficiency for converting renewable electricity production to primary energy. Using an emission factor mid-way between the IPCC’s default values for coal and natural gas (effectively a factor for diesel fuel), this represents about 800 million tonnes CO2 in potentially avoided emissions in 2011 that would have been globally emitted from fossil fuel power generation and road transport. This amount is similar to the current CO2 emissions from Germany.
Including hydropower, total renewable energy sources presently supply 8.5% of all energy. Total potentially avoided emissions in 2011 are estimated at roughly 1.7 billion tonnes CO2 when including the hydropower capacity added since 1992. Thus, present global CO2 emissions, potentially, could have been about 5% higher without the use of these renewable energy sources. About one third of these potentially avoided emissions relates to China and one eighth to Brazil, both mainly due to the increased use of hydropower. If these and other main CO2 reduction measures, such as energy savings, are going to be applied on a large scale, the current rate of increasing emissions will slow down and the probability that the 2 °C target will be achieved may increase, substantially.—Trends in global CO2 emissions
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