Emissions peak hope dashed

Bonn: The world's carbon dioxide emissions are set to rise by two per cent to a record level this year after a three-year plateau, scientists said on Monday, dashing hopes that global emissions had peaked.

Global emissions had been more or less flat from 2014 to 2016 but will increase in 2017 mainly because of a rise in China after a two-year decline, the scientists said at a UN climate conference here.

The findings, presented during negotiations among 190-odd countries over the details of the Paris climate accord of 2015, are a setback to the goal of cutting global emissions to avert extreme rain episodes, heat waves and rising sea levels.

Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry are on track to rise two per cent in 2017 over 2016, reaching a high of 37 billion tonnes, a 76-member science team from 15 countries said.

"This is very disappointing," said Corinne Le Quere, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia in the UK.

The increasing emissions and the associated rise in global temperatures are pushing the planet towards "tipping points", the scientists said.

The Paris accord seeks to cut global emissions fast enough to avert a 2 degree Celsius rise in average global temperatures. But Le Quere said: "Time is running out on our ability to keep warming well below 2 degrees, let alone 1.5 degrees."

The report's findings underscore the challenge the world faces in reducing emissions and add pressure on the negotiators trying to prepare a rulebook to implement the Paris accord.

The negotiations have evolved into what one observer described as a "full-fledged bargaining duel" between the developed and developing countries on issues relating to climate commitments up to 2020.

Some climate analysts point out that several countries have not even honoured commitments on emission cuts due until 2020 under an earlier pact called the Kyoto Protocol.

The developed countries had agreed in 2012 that they would take on emission cuts on average at least 18 per cent below their 1990 levels and increase their ambitions even higher. "However, neither has happened so far," Harjit Singh, climate expert with Action Aid, a non-government organisation.

Analysts tracking the conference said discussions about key points such as long-term finance from developed countries to the developing countries, loss and damage, and transparency relating to climate actions have made little progress.

"The emphasis on the pre-2020 agenda has affected the discussions on such key issues," Elina Bardram, a European Union negotiator, told The Telegraph.

Indian environment minister Harsh Vardhan had earlier told this newspaper that developed countries needed to walk their talk on their commitments to combat climate change.

"Just committing is not enough, they need to deliver the commitments," Vardhan had said, without naming countries.

Glen Peters, a climate researcher from Oslo, Norway, and another author of the report predicting a 2 per cent rise in emissions in 2017, said China's emissions were set to rise driven by coal demand and strong economic growth.

China, the top greenhouse gas emitter ahead of the United States, accounts for almost 30 per cent of world emissions.

US emissions were set to decline by 0.4 per cent in 2017, a smaller fall than in recent years, also reflecting more burning of coal.

Coal's gains were linked to a rise in the price of natural gas that made coal more attractive in power plants, Peters told Reuters, rather than the effects of US President Donald Trump's pro-coal policies.

Trump plans to pull out of the Paris Agreement.

Worldwide, "we are probably in the level-to-upwards direction for emissions in the next years rather than level or downwards," Peters said, because of stronger global gross domestic product (GDP) growth.

Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit think-tank who was not involved in the study, said carbon emissions per unit of GDP were falling.

This year "might well prove a small blip on an otherwise flattening emissions curve," he said.

Additional reporting by Reuters


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