PARIS Global emissions of carbon dioxide hit their highest level ever in 2010, with the growth driven mainly by booming coal-reliant emerging economies, the International Energy Agency's chief economist said on Monday.
Fatih Birol warned that carbon dioxide emissions were coming close to a target set by the 190-nation Cancun climate talks last year to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times.
CO2 emissions rose by 5.9 percent to 30.6 billion tonnes in 2010, Birol said, citing IEA estimates,
"It's a very strong rebound in CO2 emissions, driven mainly by the non-OECD countries," Birol told Reuters in an interview, adding three quarters of the growth came from emerging economies such as China or India.
"It's the highest ever growth in history," he said.
Christiania Figueres, head of the United Nation's Climate Change Secretariat, called the figures a "stark warning to governments to make rapid climate progress," starting with a meeting of government negotiators in Bonn from June 6-17.
Governments "need to push the world further down the right track to avoid dangerous climate change," she said in a statement. "I won't hear that this is impossible."
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 percent of the electricity generation related emissions for 2020 are already locked in.
"The room for maneuver is only of 20 percent," he added.
Birol blamed the lack of a climate change agreement and policy makers indecision on which cleaner burning technologies to support for the increase in CO2 emissions.
The Cancun climate change talks that took place at the end of 2010 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 maneuver to get to the 2020 target shrinks," he said.
There was also concern that after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March, many countries, such as Germany, were opting out of nuclear energy, which emits virtually no CO2, Birol said.
"The less nuclear growth means higher CO2 emissions compared to what people thought a couple of months ago," he said.
The growth in CO2 emission was mainly led by coal, natural gas and oil, Briol 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 on June 8.
(Reporting by Muriel Boselli; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)