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Trends in Global CO2 Emissions
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Trends in Global CO2 Emissions

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Despite international efforts to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, global carbon dioxide emissions rose 3 percent to 34 billion tons in 2011, according to a new report released by the European Union.

The report focuses on the growing role played by China in global greenhouse gas emissions. European Union officials noted that the average Chinese person’s carbon footprint is now almost on a par with the average European’s, a stunning statistic considering the size of China’s population.

Last year, China’s CO2 emissions rose by 9.0 percent, meaning the country produced the equivalent of 7.2 tons of the gas for each resident, according to the report by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and the European Commission’s Joint Research Center. While China has pursued price control mechanisms and tightly regulated markets as part of its emissions trading schemes, the policies seem to have had little impact on its carbon emissions.

The report noted that the U.S. remains one of the top emitters of greenhouse gas emissions. EU officials note that the 27-nation European Union produced 7.5 tons of CO2 per person, while the U.S. topped out at 17.3 tons per resident in 2011. In the European Union CO2 emissions dropped by 3 percent to 7.5 tons per capita, according to the report. In volume terms, China and the U.S. remain the top two emitters, accounting for 29 and 16 percent of global CO2, respectively. They are followed by the E.U. (11 percent), India (six percent), Russia (five percent) and Japan (four percent).

Per capita, Australia remains at the top of among major nations at 19 tons, followed by the U.S. at 17.3 tonnes and Saudi Arabia at 16.5.

E.U. officials said that despite growing concern over the effects of global warming, any progress made by first-world nations have been largely offset by growth in India and China.

“These emissions are decreasing in many OECD countries, as a result of both the recession and high oil prices, while China’s emission levels have been expanding rapidly, due to its economic growth rate and especially the high level of construction activity,” the study notes. “Although all developing countries together increased their emissions on average by 6 percent, the increases in China and India caused by far the largest increase in global emissions.”

EU officials say since 2000 an estimated total of 420 billion tons of CO2 was cumulatively emitted due to human activities (including deforestation). Scientific literature suggests that limiting average global temperature rise to 2 °C above pre-industrial levels– the target internationally adopted in UN climate negotiations – is possible if cumulative emissions in the 2000–2050 period do not exceed 1,000 to 1,500 billion tons of CO2. If the current global increase in CO2 emissions continues, cumulative emissions will surpass this total within the next two decades, say climate scientists.











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