Carbon Emissions To Hit Record Levels
A traffic policeman signals to drivers during a smoggy day in Harbin, Heilongjiang province (Reuters)

Global emissions of carbon dioxide are set to rise to a record high of 36 billion metric tonnes this year with China overtaking the European Union, according to environmental experts.

The report by the Global Carbon Project, compiled by 49 researchers in 10 countries, demonstrates the failure of governments to regulate the main greenhouse gas blamed for global warming.

Global Carbon Budget shows that the largest suppliers of fossil fuel emissions in 2012 were China (27%), the United States (14%), the European Union (10%) and India (6%).

China pumped out 9.6bn tonnes of CO2 in 2012, a 5.9% increase on 2011.

The report's overall 2013 figures represent a 2.1% increase on 2012 and a 61% increase since 1990 - the benchmark year of the Kyoto Protocol, the global pact that aimed to reduce national carbon emission levels.

"Governments need to agree how to reverse this trend," said Prof Corinne Le Quéré, who led the research, of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia.

"Emissions must fall substantially and rapidly if we are to limit global climate change to below 2 degrees Celsius."

The report indicated that decisions made by China, the world's most populous nation, would be vital to any international treaty on reducing emissions. The average person in China was responsible for 7 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions last year.

"China has a big role to play in the international negotiations," Le Quéré said.

"There is a lot of historical responsibility for emissions in rich countries in the European Union and also the United States, but when you look at the potential for future emissions China's role is huge.

"The pathways that China chooses in the coming 20 years will largely determine global emissions. The decisions and commitments that China makes are very important, even though historically they are responsible for only just above 10% of global emissions," she continued.

Australia: 'no signs emissions are decreasing'

China is not the only nation that the report pinpointed for improvement. Australia was not reducing its carbon emissions at a rate comparable to that of the US (down 3.7% to 5.1bn tonnes) or the EU (down 1.3% to 3.5bn tonnes).

Australia, which is the 16th largest "emitter" in the world, has not made stringent efforts to cut back on the pollutants it pours into the atmosphere, said the report.

"Australia's emissions have nearly stabilised in the last three or four years but there are no signs that emissions are decreasing," said Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation's Dr Michael Raupach, co-author of the report.

Last week, 130 developing nations including China backed a Brazilian proposal that emissions since 1850 should be a key aspect in any global burden-sharing agreement of future emissions cuts but the EU and the US rejected the idea.

Scientists have warned that the world has produced two-thirds of the total volume of greenhouse gas emissions that would push atmospheric temperatures over the tipping point of a 2C rise.

A global average temperature rise above 2C would have disastrous consequences, they said, and trigger widescale floods, droughts and storms.


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