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Bickering over CO2 count seen unhelpful for climate

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Bickering by individual nations over whether annual carbon emission figures are accurate stands in the way of finding a global solution to fighting climate change, a leading German researcher said.

Smoke rises out of a cement plant in Baokang, Hubei province September 12, 2009. REUTERS/Stringer

Norbert Allnoch, head of the IWR renewable energy research institute, said nations should follow the same yardstick for measuring their annual emissions from agriculture or burning fossil fuels.

“It doesn’t change the global situation if numbers are pushed about to and fro,” he said.

IWR released a table last month showing carbon emissions for the 65 most polluting nations, with China at the top of the list with 6.8 billion tonnes of CO2 emitted in 2008, up 178 percent from 1990. The United States was second, followed by Russia, India and Japan.

Tiny Singapore criticised IWR last week for placing it at number 30 with 175 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per annum in 2008 or nearly double the per-capita level of the United States.

Singapore’s top climate change negotiator, Chew Tai Soo, told Reuters the IWR and the U.S. Department of Energy had incorrectly added the potential emissions from Singapore’s exports of marine and aviation fuels. Singapore is a global aviation and shipping hub.

The bulk of the fuels were burned outside Singapore, Chew said. The better thing to do would be to have emissions reduction pacts for the shipping and aviation sectors as part of a global climate deal, he said.

Allnoch, whose institute is based in Muenster and advises German government departments, said the figures issued last month were based on coal, oil and gas usages and adopted from BP statistics and also issued and used by the U.S. Department of Energy.

IWR has suggested that a U.N.-led climate meeting in Copenhagen in December to help shape a successor regime to the Kyoto Protocol should instead focus on investment in renewable energies to bring down CO2 emissions, instead of setting curbs for nations.


This is because CO2 emissions have risen for the tenth year in succession, running counter to Kyoto’s goal for industrialised nations to cut emissions by an average 5.2 percent between 2008-12 from 1990 levels, IWR has pointed out.

“I don’t believe that Copenhagen will achieve anything by capping emissions because politicians will not want to ask their industries to cut back,” Allnoch said. “They would risk being blamed for damage to their industries.”

This was one reason why IWR thought cap-and-trade systems to curb emissions were flawed, he said.

Europe started such a market mechanism in 2005 as the key plank of its climate legislation and the United States is now working on creating a cap-and-trade system that would also help drive clean energy investments.

As an alternative, IWR has suggested linking measured emissions to individual countries’ renewable energy investment commitments.

“Then each country could contribute what it has -- be it favourable conditions for solar power or hydropower, and it would all be about chances rather than potential competitive setbacks,” Allnoch said.

Equipped with firm signals of where investments would take place, manufacturers could position themselves accordingly.