The world’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions increased at a slower rate last year – 1.1 per cent compared to a 2.9 per cent annual increase over the past decade, a report said on Thursday.
This was despite a global economic growth rate of 3.5 per cent and was partly the result of a shift to hydroelectric power in China and shale gas in the United States, according to an analysis by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.
“This development signals a shift towards less fossil fuel-intensive activities, more use of renewable energy and increased energy saving,” said a statement.
The output still represented a new record 34.5 billion tonnes.
CO2 is the greenhouse gas chiefly responsible for man-made global warming – which the UN has said must be limited to 2.0 degrees Celsius above pre-Industrial Revolution levels.
Scientists have said this is possible only if CO2 emissions from 2000 to 2050 do not exceed 1.0 to 1.5 trillion tonnes – yet an estimated 466 billion tonnes have been emitted since 2000, according to data cited in the report.
In May this year, the concentration of climate-altering carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere exceeded 400 particles per million for the first time.
The report said China’s CO2 emissions increased by 3.0 per cent last year to 9.9 billion tonnes from 2011 – a low rate compared to annual increases of about 10 per cent over the past decade.
In the United States, emissions decreased by 4 per cent to 5.2 billion tonnes, mainly due to a shift from coal to shale gas in the power sector. It was the lowest emissions level in the United States since 1993.
The European Union saw its emissions drop by 1.6 per cent as the economic downturn continued to dampen energy consumption and road freight transport.
China was responsible for 29 per cent of emissions last year, the United States 15, the European Union 11 per cent, India 6 per cent, Russia 5 per cent and Japan 4 per cent.
Fossil-fuel burning accounted for 90 per cent of total CO2 emissions and power generation was the biggest contributing sector.
The use of nuclear energy has decreased in the aftermath of the Fukushima accident, but hydropower output increased by 4.3 per cent from 2011 to last year, said the report.