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June 01, 2011
Global Emissions Reach Record High in 2010
    by Robert Kropp

The International Energy Agency finds that, following a decline in global emissions in 2009, they increased by five percent over the previous record year, adding to the challenge of meeting reduction goals established at Cancun last year.

The International Energy Agency (IEA), a nonprofit organization providing research and analysis in support of efforts by its member countries to address climate change, announced Monday that energy-related carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2010 were the highest ever recorded.

"After a dip in 2009 caused by the global financial crisis," IEA stated, "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."

According to IEA, 44% of the estimated CO2 emissions in 2010 came from coal, 36% from oil, and 20% from natural gas. Increases in emissions were greatest in the rapidly growing economies of China and India.

In Cancun last December, member nations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreed upon a target of limiting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to no more than 450 parts per million of CO2-equivalent, in order to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2C. However, the agreement was not binding upon signatories.

The combination of the increase in emissions recorded in 2010 and the finding by IEA that 80% of projected emissions from the power sector in 2020 are already locked in represents "a serious setback to our hopes of limiting the global rise in temperature to no more than 2C," said Dr Fatih Birol, Chief Economist at the IEA.

"The world has edged incredibly close to the level of emissions that should not be reached until 2020 if the 2C target is to be attained," Birol continued. "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 its World Energy Outlook 2010, IEA presented the results of its 450 Scenario, which was established in 2008. The Scenario establishes a goal in which "emissions reach a peak of 32 Gt just before 2020 and then slide to 22 Gt by 2035," according to the report.

Monday's announcement by IEA noted that in order to reach the goal set for 2020 by the Scenario, "emissions must rise less in total than they did between 2009 and 2010."


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