Coal-reliant emerging economies have driven growth in CO2 emissions

Global CO2 emissions hit record high

Carbon dioxide emissions around the world hit their highest level ever last year, the International Energy Agency has said.

Emissions growth has been driven mainly by booming coal-reliant emerging economies, with CO2 emissions rising by 5.9 per cent to 30.6 billion tonnes in 2010.

This means emissions are coming close to a target set by the Cancun climate talks last year to limit global warming to less than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times, IEA chief economist Fatih Birol warned.

"It's a very strong rebound in CO2 emissions, driven mainly by the non-OECD countries," he told Reuters, adding that three quarters of the growth came from emerging economies such as China or India.

"It's the highest ever growth in history."

The figures are a "stark warning to governments to make rapid climate progress," said Christiania Figueres, head of the United Nation's Climate Change Secretariat, as governments prepare for climate talks in Bonn next month.

Governments "need to push the world further down the right track to avoid dangerous climate change," she said.

The Paris-based IEA, which advises its members on energy policy, has also carried out an analysis on the world's power plants showing 80 per cent of the electricity generation related emissions for 2020 are already locked in.

The lack of a climate change agreement and policy makers' indecision on which cleaner burning technologies to support is to blame for the increase in CO2 emissions, Birol said.

The Cancun climate change talks that took place at the end of last year failed to reach a binding deal extending the Kyoto Protocol for cutting CO2 emissions beyond 2012.

Scientists say rising levels of CO2, the main greenhouse gas from burning fossil fuels and deforestation, is warming the planet.

"Every year we don't have a climate change agreement, every year we don't give a clear signal to pave the way for renewable energies and other clean energy technologies, the room for manoeuvre to get to the 2020 target shrinks," he said.

There was also concern that after the Japanese nuclear disaster, many countries including Germany were opting out of nuclear energy, which emits virtually no CO2, Birol said.

The growth in CO2 emission was mainly led by coal, natural gas and oil, he added.

The IEA urged oil producing countries to boost supply to cut fuel costs to protect economic recovery earlier this month and appeared to suggest its members could release emergency stockpiles if OPEC did not act at its next meeting next month.

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