Carbon Emissions From Power Generation Rise to Record, IEA Says

Global carbon emissions from electricity generation climbed to a record in 2010, led by coal-fired power plants, as growth accelerated in emerging economies, according to the International Energy Agency.

Emissions rose to 30.6 gigatons last year, 5 percent higher than the previous record of 29.3 gigatons in 2008, the Paris-based IEA said in a statement yesterday. Carbon output fell in 2009 because of the global financial crisis, the agency said, without providing a figure. China and India led the increase from emerging economies.

China, India, Brazil and South Africa pressed developed nations to make bigger cuts to emissions in December at international climate talks in Cancun, Mexico. Countries agreed in Copenhagen in 2009 and Cancun to try to contain global warming to 2 degrees Celsius beyond pre-industrial levels.

“Our latest estimates are another wake-up call,” Fatih Birol, the IEA’s chief economist, said in the statement posted on the agency’s website. “The world has edged incredibly close to the level of emissions that should not be reached until 2020 if the 2 degree Celsius target is to be attained.”

Coal was responsible for about 44 percent of estimated emissions in 2010, while oil contributed about 36 percent and gas 20 percent, the IEA said. Countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development emitted 10 tons of carbon on a per capita basis, compared with 5.8 tons for China and 1.5 tons for India.

‘Serious Setback’

The Paris-based adviser estimates that 80 percent of the projected carbon emissions from the electricity sector in 2020 are already “locked in.”

The increase in carbon output “and the locking in of future emissions due to infrastructure investments represents a serious setback to our hopes of limiting the global rise in temperature to no more than 2 degrees Celsius,” Birol said.

An increase in global warming by more than 2 degrees would lead to the melting of snow on mountain ranges such as the Himalayas and Andes that provide water to more than one billion people, and may lead to the extinction of as much as 30 percent of plant and animal species, according to the United Nations.

In Cancun, countries avoided setting new targets for curbing greenhouse gases. Japan, Russia and Canada said they don’t want to extend the 1997 Kyoto Protocol unless the two biggest emitters, China and the U.S., are brought into the pact.

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