LONDON/OSLO (Reuters) - Greenhouse gas emissions from industrialized nations rose by nearly one percent in 2007, led by strong gains in the United States, official data showed.
Carbon emissions from countries signed up to the Kyoto Protocol climate pact edged up by 0.1 percent in 2007, mainly due to rises in Japan and Canada.
“The numbers are ... a bit depressing,” said Knut Alfsen, research director at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo, saying they showed a failure to shift away from fossil fuels. “It shows that we are not able to de-link economic growth from emissions.”
Although 2007 carbon dioxide (CO2) figures from a few economies including Australia and Ukraine were not yet available, comparing like-for-like figures showed emissions from countries with targets under Kyoto were 14 percent below 1990 levels, exceeding their goal of a 5 percent reduction by 2012.
The full 2007 data including the U.S. and Turkey, which do not have targets under Kyoto, showed that industrialized emissions were 2.1 percent below 1990 levels.
Under Kyoto, 40 or so developed countries committed in 1997 to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels between 2008-2012. Since then, the U.S., historically the world’s biggest emitter, has decided not to ratify the treaty.
U.N. climate scientists warn that rising atmospheric CO2 levels will cause global temperatures to increase, which in turn could trigger widespread disease, famine, flooding and drought.
Experts said global emissions are likely to fall in 2008 and 2009 due to lower industrial production and fossil fuel consumption as a result of the economic downturn, but they stressed that more needs to be done to prevent world temperatures from rising by over 2 degrees Celsius, a dangerous threshold according to scientists.
Barry Brook, a climate change professor at the University of Adelaide in Australia, said that even if the recession cuts emissions in developed nations, global atmospheric CO2 levels will continue to be high and “probably still higher in 2009 than in any other year before.”
“The Chinese and Indian economies, for instance, are not contracting — they’re just not growing as fast. It would take a massive and sustained global recession to noticeably curb emissions growth without directed energy policy,” he added.
Brook said most nations “have virtually no chance” of meeting cuts of 25-40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 that UN scientists say are needed to avert the worst of global warming.
The U.N. data showed that like-for-like industrialized emissions grew by 145 million tonnes in 2007, with the U.S. accounting for over 100 million tonnes of that. The U.S. emitted 7.1 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2007.
The biggest percentage increases came from Estonia and Turkey, with emissions up by 14.8 and 12.0 percent respectively.
Germany saw the largest net decrease, cutting its CO2 by 23.9 million tonnes or 2.4 percent, while tiny nation state Liechtenstein and renewable energy leader Denmark made the deepest percentage cuts, chopping CO2 by 10.8 and 6.2 percent.
The 27-nation European Union cut its emissions by 1.4 percent to 5.03 billion in 2007, 12.3 percent below 1990 levels.
Nearly half of signatory nations have already hit their Kyoto goals, though much of this can be attributed to economic restructuring and the closure of industry in eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union, rather than through investment in cleaner energy or energy efficiency.
Canada’s emissions have grown alongside its economy, boosted by stronger energy prices, though Ottawa has said it is unlikely to reach its 6 percent Kyoto reduction target. Canada’s emissions rose by 4 percent in 2007, putting the country’s CO2 at 29 percent over 1990 levels.
With a rise of 2.3 percent in 2007, Japan is also significantly above its own 6 percent reduction target, but is buying emissions rights from other nations that have cut CO2.
Editing by William Hardy