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IPCC: Global greenhouse gas emissions accelerate

15 April 2014

A new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that global emissions of greenhouse gases have risen to unprecedented levels despite a growing number of policies to reduce climate change. Emissions grew more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the three previous decades.

Anthropogenic GHG emissions grew at an average annual rate of 2.2% over 2000-2010, compared with a growth rate of 1.3% per year over the period of 1970-2000. CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and industrial processes contributed 65% of global GHG emissions in 2010.

The report, entitled Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change, is the third of three Working Group reports, which, along with a Synthesis Report due in October 2014, constitute the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report on climate change. A concise summary of the report has been released as the Summary for Policymakers.

“Climate policies in line with the two degrees Celsius goal need to aim for substantial emission reductions,” said Ottmar Edenhofer, a Co-Chair of Working Group III. “There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual.”

Scenarios developed by the IPCC suggest that to have a likely chance of limiting the increase in global mean temperature to two degrees Celsius, means lowering global GHG emissions by 40 to 70% compared with 2010 by mid-century, and to near-zero by the end of this century. Considering the growing GHG emission trends documented in the report, one can have doubts if these targets are realistic.

The increase in anthropogenic GHG emissions comes from energy supply (47%), industry (30%), transport (11%), and buildings (3%) sectors. Globally, population and economic growth continue to be the most important drivers of increases in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion. The contribution of population growth between 2000 and 2010 remained roughly identical to the previous three decades, while the contribution of economic growth has risen sharply. Between 2000 and 2010, both drivers outpaced emission reductions from improvements in energy intensity. Increased use of coal relative to other energy sources has reversed the long‐standing trend of gradual decarbonization of the world’s energy supply.

The transport sector accounted for 27% of final energy use and 6.7 GtCO2 direct emissions in 2010, with baseline CO2 emissions projected to approximately double by 2050. Emissions growth from increasing global passenger and freight activity could be partly offset by future mitigation measures, such as fuel carbon and energy intensity improvements, infrastructure development, behavioral change and comprehensive policy implementation. Reductions in total transport CO2 emissions of 15–40% compared to the baseline growth could be achieved by 2050, suggests the report.

At its 28th session held in 2008, the IPCC decided to prepare a Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). The Working Group III contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report assesses the options for mitigating climate change and their underlying technological, economic and institutional requirements. Working Group I of the IPCC released the Summary for Policymakers of its report, on the physical science basis of climate change, in September 2013, and published the full report in January 2014. Working Group II released its report, on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, on 31 March 2014. The Fifth Assessment Report will be completed by a Synthesis Report to be finalized in October.

Source: IPCC