Greenhouse gas emissions reached a record last year, rising to the highest carbon output in history, according to as yet unpublished estimates from the International Energy Agency (IEA). The most serious global recession for 80 years has only had a minimal impact on emissions.
The IEA had hoped that the impact of the global recession might have reduced emissions, giving some breathing space to allow time for permanent emissions reductions to be put in place. The new estimates indicate this has not been the case.
According to Fatih Birol, Chief Economist of the IEA, the goal of preventing a global temperature rise of more than 2 degrees is fast becoming “a nice utopia”.
The IEA estimates reveal that a record 30.6 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide were emitted into the atmosphere, which was a rise of 1.6 gigatonnes from the 2009 figure.
Birol asserted that this data is the worst news on emissions, and it’s becoming “extremely challenging” for the world to remain under 2 degrees of rise in global temperature.
The International Energy Agency has calculated that the world will need to keep emissions below 32 gigatonnes a year by 2020, to avoid very damaging effects of climate change. If emissions keep rising by as much as they did in 2010, the limit will be reached 9 years earlier.
Most of the rise in greenhouse gas emissions has come from so called developing countries, as their growing economies bucked the global recession.
In light of the estimates, Faith Birol has urged governments to take urgent action. He said,
“This should be a wake-up call. A chance [of staying below 2 degrees] would be if we had a legally binding international agreement or major moves on clean energy technologies, energy efficiency and other technologies.”
Governments are due to meet in Bonn, Germany for the next round of UN talks, but unfortunately, progress is not expected to be made there.