Global CO2 emissions are on the rise again, energy report warns

by ClickGreen staff. Published Mon 24 Oct 2011 18:09, Last updated: 2011-10-24
Energy generation and transport produced nearly two-thirds of global CO2 emissions
Energy generation and transport produced nearly two-thirds of global CO2 emissions

Global CO2 emissions are expected to rise again following the first decrease in over a decade, according to the latest statistics released today by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The report states that due to the 2008-2009 economic crisis global CO2 emissions decreased for the first time since 1990, but a large rebound is anticipated in 2010

While carbon dioxide emissions in developing countries continued to grow in 2009 (+3.3%), emissions of developed countries fell sharply (-6.5%), according to a new publication. Most of the reduction, however, comes from a decrease in the energy consumption due to the 2008-2009 economic crisis.

Statistics for 2009 show that emission levels for the group of countries participating in the Kyoto Protocol – a multinational agreement to mitigate climate change – were just shy of 15% below their 1990 level.

Other key findings include:

*Two-thirds of global emissions for 2009 originated from just ten countries, with the shares of China and the United States far surpassing those of all others. (Combined, these two countries alone produced 41% of the world’s CO2 emissions)

*Between 1990 and 2009, CO2 emissions from the combustion of coal grew from 40% to 43% and natural gas from 18 to 20%, while CO2 emissions from oil fell from 42% to 37%

*Two sectors – Electricity and heat generation and transport – produced nearly two-thirds of global CO₂emissions in 2009, up from 58% in 1990

The reports described how while the emissions of developing countries continued to grow in 2009 (+3.3%), led by Asia and the Middle East, the emissions of developed countries fell sharply (-6.5%), putting them at 6.4% below their 1990 collective level.

It should be noted that 2009 emission levels for the group of countries participating in the Kyoto protocol were 14.7% below their 1990 level.

Global CO2 emissions actually decreased by 0.5 Gt CO2 between 2008 and 2009, which represented a decline of 1.5%. However, trends varied greatly, due to these diverging trends, the share of total emissions for developing countries increased to 54% (excluding bunkers), after becoming larger than the developed countries share for the first time since 2008.

The changes were not equal across fuels, regions and sectors. The increase in emissions for developing countries was primarily due to an increase in coal demand (with oil and gas increasing more modestly).

On the contrary, the reduction in emissions for developed countries was more spread out over fuels: 53% of the decrease came from coal, while 30% from oil and 18% from natural gas .

Early indications suggest that CO2 emissions trends in developing countries in 2010 will continue to increase, through growing consumption of fossil fuels in some of the larger countries. The trend of emissions in developed countries will rebound in 2010 and CO2 emissions will likely be at a similar level to 2008, before the recent financial crisis and the slowdown in economic activity.

In the medium term, developed countries are expected to rebound when economic conditions pick up. In its New Policies Scenario, the World Energy Outlook (WEO 2010) projects that world CO2 emissions from fuel combustion will continue to grow unabated, albeit at a lower rate, reaching 35.4 Gt CO2 by 2035.

This is an improvement over the Current Policies Scenario of the WEO and is in line with the worst-case scenario presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in the Fourth Assessment Report (2007), which projects a world average temperature increase of between 2.4°C and 6.4°C by 2100.

In 2009, 43% of CO2 emissions from fuel combustion were produced from coal, 37% from oil and 20% from gas. Growth of these fuels in 2009 was quite different, reflecting varying trends that are expected to continue in the future.

Between 2008 and 2009, CO2 emissions from the combustion of coal decreased by nearly 1% and represented 12.5 Gt CO2. Currently, coal is filling much of the growing energy demand of those developing countries, such as China and India, where energy-intensive industrial production is growing rapidly and large coal reserves exist with limited reserves of other energy

Without additional measures, the WEO 2010 projects that emissions from coal will grow to 14.4 Gt CO2 in 2035. Energy Technology Perspectives (ETP 2010) shows that intensified use of coal would substantially increase CO2 emissions unless there was a very widespread deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS).

CO2 emissions from oil fell in 2008, decreasing 2.2% throughout the year. The decreasing share of oil in total primary energy supply (TPES), as a result of the growth of coal and the penetration of gas, put downward pressure on CO2 emissions from oil, which produced 10.6 Gt CO2 in 2009.

However, the WEO 2010 projects that emissions from oil will grow to 12.6 Gt CO2 in 2035. Emissions of CO2 from gas in 2009 represented 5.8 Gt CO2, 2.2% higher than in the previous year. Again, the WEO 2010 projects emissions from gas will continue to grow, rising to 8.4 Gt CO2 in 2035.

Between 2008 and 2009, CO2 emission trends varied markedly by region. As mentioned earlier, CO2 emissions from non-Annex I countries grew by 3.3%, while those of Annex I countries decreased by 6.5%, causing the aggregate emissions of the developing countries to increase their small lead over those of the developed countries.

At the regional level, CO2 emissions increased significantly in Asia (5.5%), China (5%) and the Middle East (3.6%).

On the other hand, between 2008 and 2009, CO2 emissions decreased in all other regions, ranging from 1.5% in Africa to 7.4% in the Annex II European countries.

However, regional differences in contributions to global emissions conceal even larger differences
among individual countries. Two-thirds of global emissions for 2009 originated from just ten countries, with the shares of China and the United States far surpassing those of all others.

Combined, these two countries alone produced 12.0 Gt CO2, 41% of world CO2 emissions.

Two sectors, electricity and heat generation and transport, produced nearly two-thirds of global CO2 emissions in 2009.

Generation of electricity and heat was by far the largest producer of CO2 emissions and was responsible for 41% of the world CO2 emissions in 2009. Worldwide, this sector relies heavily on coal, the most carbon-intensive of fossil fuels, amplifying its share in global emissions. Countries such as Australia, China, India, Poland and South Africa produce between 68% and 94% of their electricity and heat through the combustion of coal.

Between 2008 and 2009, total CO2 emissions from the generation of electricity and heat decreased by 1.7%, while the fuel mix stayed similar. CO2 emissions from oil decreased the most, by 2.8%, while coal and gas decreased by 1.9% and 0.7% respectively.

The future development of the emissions intensity of this sector depends strongly on the fuels used to generate the electricity and on the share of non-emitting sources, such as renewables and nuclear.

By 2035, the WEO 2010 projects that demand for electricity will be approximately three-quarters higher than current demand. This demand will be driven by rapid growth in population and income in developing countries, by the continuing increase in the number of electrical devices used in homes and commercial buildings, and by the growth in electrically driven industrial processes.

Meanwhile, renewables-based electricity generation is expected to continue growing over the next 25 years, benefiting from government support, declining investment costs and rising fossil-fuel prices.

The share of renewables in total electricity generation rises from 19% in 2008 to 23%, 32% and 45% in the Current Policies, New Policies and 450 scenarios, respectively.

Transport, the second-largest sector, represented 23% of global CO2 emissions in 2009. CO2 emissions in this sector decreased between 2008 and 2009 by 1.7%.

The United States has the highest level of passenger travel per capita in the world (more than 25 000 km per person per year). Until recently, lower fuel prices in the United States contributed to the use of larger vehicles, while in Europe higher fuel prices encouraged improved fuel economy (along with the EU voluntary agreement with manufacturers).

As a result, there is more than a 50% variation in the average fuel consumption of new light-duty vehicles across OECD member countries. Global demand for transport appears unlikely to decrease in the foreseeable future; the WEO 2010 projects that transport fuel demand will grow by about 40% by 2035. To limit emissions from this sector, policy makers should first and foremost consider measures to encourage or require improved vehicle efficiency, as the United States has recently done and the European Union is currently doing as a follow-up to the voluntary agreements.

Policies that encourage a shift from cars to public transportation and to lower emission
modes of transportation can also help.

Finally, policies can encourage a shift to new, preferably low-carbon fuels. These include electricity (e.g. electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles), hydrogen (e.g. through the introduction of fuel cell vehicles) and greater use of biofuels (e.g. as a blend in gasoline and diesel fuel). To avoid a rebound in transport fuel demand, these moves must also be backed up by emissions pricing or fuel excise policies.

These policies would both reduce the environmental impact of transport and help to secure domestic fuel supplies, which are sometimes unsettled by the threat of supply disruptions, whether from natural disasters, accidents or the geopolitics of oil trade. As these policies will ease demand growth, they are also likely to help reduce oil prices below what the prices might otherwise be.

Indicators such as those briefly discussed in this section strongly reflect energy constraints and choices made to supply the economic activities of each country. They also reflect sectors that predominate in different countries’ economies.

In 2009, the largest five emitters (China, the United States, India, the Russian Federation and Japan) comprised 45% of the total population and together produced 56% of the global CO2 emissions and 51% of the world gross domestic product (GDP).

However, the relative shares of these five countries for all three variables were very diverse. In the United States, the large share of global emissions is associated with a commensurate share of economic output (as measured by GDP), the largest in the world. Japan, with a GDP more than double that of the Russian Federation, emits 29% less than the Russian Federation.

Although climate and other variables also affect energy use, relatively high values of emissions per GDP indicate a potential for decoupling CO2 emissions from economic growth. Possible improvements can derive from fuel switching away from carbon-intensive sources or from energy efficiency at all stages of the energy supply chain (from fuel extraction to energy

Among the five largest emitters of CO2 in 2009, China, the Russian Federation and the United States have significantly reduced their CO2 emissions per unit of GDP between 1990 and 2009. The other two countries, India and Japan, already had much lower emissions per GDP.

Worldwide, the highest levels of emissions per GDP are observed for the oil and gas exporting region of the Middle East and for the relatively energy-intensive Economies in transition EITs. China emissions per GDP have fallen close to the level of the United States.

Industrialised countries emit far larger amounts of CO2 per capita than the world average. However, some rapidly expanding economies are significantly increasing their emissions per capita.

For example, between 1990 and 2009, among the top 5 emitting countries, China increased its per capita emissions by over two and a half times and India doubled them. Clearly, these two countries contributed much to the 8% increase of global per capita emissions over the period. Conversely, both the Russian Federation and the United States decreased their per capita emissions significantly, by 27% and 13% respectively, over the same period.

As compared to emissions per unit of GDP, the range of per capita emission levels across the world is even larger, highlighting wide divergences in the way different countries and regions use energy.

In 2009, the United States alone generated 18% of world CO2 emissions, despite a population of less than 5% of the global total. Conversely, China contributed a comparable share of world emissions (24%) while accounting for 20% of the world population. India, with 17% of world population, contributed more than 5% of the CO2 emissions.

Among the five largest emitters, the levels of per capita emissions were very diverse, ranging from 1 t of CO2 per capita for India and 5 t for China to 17 t for the United States.

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