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China and India nullify global reduction in CO2 emissions

Press release | 30-06-2010

Despite the continued economic crisis, global emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, have remained constant in 2009, as strong increases in CO2 emissions from fast-growing developing countries, such as China and India, have completely nullified CO2 emission reductions in the industrialised world.

This according to calculations in the report "No growth in total global CO2 emissions in 2009", published today by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL). The PBL based its calculations on recent data from a number of sources: data on energy use from oil company British Petroleum (BP), on cement production from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and on the latest version of the Emission Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR), which is a joint project of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL).

Figure: line chart with the CO2 emissions from fuel use and cement production per region 1990-2011; growth in emissions from China and other developing countries, such as India

The PBL calculated that emissions from fossil-fuel combustion (including those from gas flares – the burning of waste gas from oil drilling and other industrial processes, such as the production of cement and ammonia) in the industrial countries have decreased by seven per cent. In China and India, these emissions increased by nine and six per cent, respectively – despite a doubling of wind and solar energy in China, for the fifth year in a row. Overall, this has meant that, in 2009, CO2 emissions worldwide have remained constant, for the first time since 1992. In earlier projections, the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicted an emission decrease for 2009 of 2.6 per cent – which would have been the largest decrease in forty years.

For industrialised countries, their reductions help them to meet their international obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. Last year, their combined emission level was ten per cent below 1990 levels, and therefore well below the Kyoto target level. Together, the industrialised countries – except for the United States, which have not ratified the protocol – are on course to achieve a combined average decrease in CO2 emissions of 5.2 per cent, between 2008 and 2012, compared with 1990 levels.

However, this decrease is also related to the financial crisis. A large part of production capacity has been suspended, but could be re-employed as soon as the economy improves. Therefore, it is likely that a recovering economy would cause emission levels in industrialised countries to go up. Nevertheless, the economic downturn has meant that these countries can meet their reduction obligations with more ease. Another consequence of this downturn is that some industrialised countries may need to purchase less emission rights from reduction projects in developing countries, which, in turn, means that there will be less funds available for emission reductions in those developing countries.

Emissions per inhabitant

Although there have been strong increases in emissions in countries such as China and India, their average CO2 emissions per inhabitant, in 2009, were still below those in industrial countries. In India the emissions were 1.4 tonnes per person and in China this was 6 tonnes, compared with 10 tonnes per person in the Netherlands and 17 tonnes in the United States.

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For further information, please contact the PBL Press Office (+31 70-3288688 or persvoorlichting@pbl.nl).