China's CO2 increase slows

Updated: 2013-06-11 11:19

By Joseph Boris in Washington (China Daily)

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China remained the No 1 emitter of carbon-based pollution in 2012, even though its world-leading increase was among the smallest the country has recorded in the past decade, according to the International Energy Agency.

Globally, the IEA said on Monday in its annual World Energy Outlook, emissions of carbon dioxide increased 1.4 percent last year to a record 31.6 billion metric tons, despite reductions to mid-1990s levels by the United States, the second-biggest CO2 polluter.

China's increase of 300 million tons, or 3.8 percent above levels of 2011, offset reduced US and European emissions, the Paris-based organization said, adding to doubts about the chances the world's governments will limit global warming to what scientists regard as an acceptable level.

In noting that China's year-on-year increase, in percentage terms, was less than half the 9.3 percent level set in 2011, the IEA credited continued investment in renewable energy and more-efficient, less-polluting systems that burn coal to generate electricity.

The energy industry accounts for about two-thirds of global emissions of CO2 and other carbon-trapping greenhouse gases, which scientists say are responsible for climate change.

Climate scientists have said the rise in Earth's average temperature needs to be limited to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) this century to prevent climate effects catastrophes such as crop failures, melted glaciers, flooding of coastal areas and islands, harm to drinking water, the spread of diseases and the extinction of species.

Keeping to within a 2-degree rise would require that emissions be kept to about 44 billion tons of CO2 equivalent by 2020 - a target sought in international discussions. In Monday's report, however, the IEA said the world is on course for an average temperature rise of between 2.6 and 5.3 degrees C.

IEA warned that emissions were continuing to rise so fast that the world has little time left to replace the United Nations' 2005 Kyoto protocol.

"Climate change has quite frankly slipped to the back burner of policy priorities. But the problem is not going away - quite the opposite," said the agency's executive director, Maria van der Hoeven.

Climate-change mitigation will be a key topic at the IEA's biannual ministerial meeting in Paris in November, agency officials said on Monday. China will be among seven "key partner" countries, along with the 28 IEA members, at the November meeting.

According to IEA, CO2 emissions could be cut significantly by 2020 through improved energy efficiency in buildings, industry and transportation; reduced use of coal-fired power plants; a halving of the oil and gas industry's release of methane into the atmosphere; and gradual elimination of government subsidies to fossil-fuel-burning industries. The IEA has said necessary clean-energy investments now would cost about $1.5 trillion; after 2020, the cost of meeting climate targets would be $5 trillion.

Climate negotiators are meeting this week in Germany in hopes of setting targets for adoption by 2015 that would then go into effect by 2020. The main source of disagreement is how to allot emissions cuts between developed and developing countries, a group that includes China.

(China Daily USA 06/11/2013 page2)