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Steep increase in global 2010 CO2 emissions

22 September 2011

After a 1% decline in 2009, global CO2 emissions increased by 5.8% in 2010, according to a report by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre and PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. This growth rate is unprecedented in the last two decades, but similar to the increase in 1976 when the global economy was recovering from the first oil crisis and subsequent stock market crash.

Between 1990 and 2010, global CO2 emissions increased by 45% and reached an all time high of 33 billion tonnes in 2010. However, the industrialized countries that have ratified the Kyoto Protocol plus the non-ratifying USA have emitted 7.5% less CO2 in 2010 than in 1990—partly thanks to large emission reductions from economies in transition in the early nineties and more recent reductions due to the 2008-2009 recession—and collectively remain on target to meet the Kyoto Protocol objective of a 5.2% reduction. The efforts of the industrialized countries are increasingly hidden in the global picture where their share of CO2 emissions has dropped from about two-thirds in 1990 to less than half in 2010.

Long term global growth in CO2 emissions continues to be driven by power generation and road transport, both in industrial and developing countries. Globally, they account for about 40% and 15% respectively of the current total and both have consistent long-term annual growth rates of between 2.5% and 5%.

The 5.8% CO2 increase in 2010 was caused by most major economies, led by China, USA, India and EU-27 with increases of 10%, 4%, 9% and 3%, respectively.

At present, the USA emits 16.9 tonnes CO2 per capita per year, over twice as much as the EU-27 with 8.1 tonnes. By comparison, Chinese per capita CO2 emissions of 6.8 tonnes are still below the EU-27 average, but now equal those of Italy. It should be noted that the average figures for China and EU-27 hide significant regional differences.

Source: JRC