Global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) increased by 3% last year, reaching an all-time high of 34 billion tonnes in 2011. In China, average per capita CO2 emissions increased by 9% to 7.2 tonnes CO2. Taking into account an uncertainty margin of 10%, this is similar to per capita emissions in the European Union.
Global CO2 emissions continue to increase
Global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) increased by 3% in 2011, reaching an all-time high of 34 billion tonnes in 2011. With a decrease in 2008 and a 5% surge in 2010, the past decade saw an average annual increase of 2.7%. The top 5 emitters are China (29%), the United States (16%), the European Union (EU27) (11%), India (6%) and the Russian Federation (5%), followed by Japan (4%). These figures exclude emissions from biomass burning, such as forest fires, as the occurrence of which is uncertain.
The fact that global emissions continued this historical growth trend in 2011 seems remarkable at first sight, considering that in many countries that belong to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), CO2 emissions in fact decreased – in the European Union by 3%, in the United States by 2% and in Japan by 2% – mainly due to weak economic conditions in many countries, mild winter weather in several countries and high oil prices. More important, however, is that CO2 emissions from OECD countries now account for only one third of global emissions – the same share as that of China and India, where emissions increased by 9% and 6%, respectively, in 2011.
Per capita emissions in China reach European levels
In 2011, China’s average per capita carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions increased by 9% to 7.2 tonnes CO2. Taking into account an uncertainty margin of 10%, this is similar to the per capita emissions in the European Union of 7.5 tonnes in 2011, the year in which the European Union saw a decrease in emissions of 3%. China, the world’s most populous country, is now well within the 6 to 19 tonnes/person range spanned by the major industrialised countries. In comparison, in 2011, the United States was still one of the largest emitters of CO2, with 17.3 tonnes in per capita emissions, after a steep decline mainly caused by the recession in 2008-2009, high oil prices compared to low fuel taxes and an increased share of natural gas.