Global carbon dioxide emissions rose three per cent to 34 billion tonnes in 2011, according to a new EU report.
The report, published this week by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, said nations cannot emit more than 1.500 trillion tonnes of CO2 between 2000 and 2050 to meet the threshold recommended by a U.N. scientific panel.
"If the current global trend of increasing CO2 emissions continues, cumulative emissions will surpass this limit within the next two decades," the JRC said.
The study said 420 million metric tons (463 million tons) have already been pumped into the atmosphere since the turn of the century.
The findings undermine a U.N. goal to limit the rise in global average temperatures to 2C above industrial levels by 2050.
According to the report, China's emissions rose last year by 800 million tonnes of CO2 to 9.7 billion tonnes, an increase of 9 per cent.
Meanwhile, U.S. emissions fell by 110 million tonnes, or 2 per cent, to 5.42 billion tonnes of CO2.
China surpassed the U.S. as the world's biggest of emitter of carbon dioxide in 2009, and now represents 29 per cent of global emissions versus 16 per cent for the U.S., the report said.
The EU accounts for 11 per cent, India 6 per cent, Russia 5 per cent and Japan 4 per cent.
Soaring emissions in China, the world's second biggest economy, means the country's per capita emissions now have reached 7.2 tonnes, higher than EU nations such as France, Italy and Spain.
Beijing has set itself a target of reducing its CO2 emissions per unit of GDP by 40-45 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, but its rapid economic growth means the country's emissions continue to skyrocket in absolute terms.
However, Australia remains the world's biggest emitter of CO2 emissions per capita among major nations at 19 tonnes, followed by the U.S. at 17.3 tonnes and Saudi Arabia at 16.5.
See the full report