The Associated Press, Oct. 21, 2009
BONN, Germany — The industrialized world again in 2007 boosted, rather than reduced, its emissions of global-warming gases, the U.N. reported Wednesday, as international negotiators looked ahead to crucial climate talks in December.
Emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases rose by 1 percent between 2006 and 2007 among 40 nations classified as industrialized under the 1992 U.N. climate treaty, the treaty secretariat reported, detailing data for the latest available reporting period.
It was the seventh consecutive year of an upward trend, it said.
European Union countries did cut their emissions year-to-year, by an average of 1.6 percent, led by Denmark's 6.1 percent reduction. But the United States, the biggest emitter in this group, increased its emissions by 1.4 percent, and the output of heat-trapping gases by Japan, Canada and Australia also rose, the data show.
Scientists attribute a 0.74-degree Celsius (1.3-degree Fahrenheit) rise in global temperatures in the past century in part to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The warming will severely disrupt the climate, they say, unless emissions are cut back sharply, by at least 80 percent by 2050.
Under the climate treaty's 1997 Kyoto Protocol, 37 industrialized nations are committed to reduce emissions by an average 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. The United States was the only major industrialized nation to reject Kyoto, arguing such cuts would harm its economy, and that fast-growing economies, such as China's, should have been subject to Kyoto quotas.
President Barack Obama, reversing his predecessor George W. Bush's position, says the United States wants to join in a new post-2012 global agreement to rein in emissions, but in exchange U.S. negotiators seek some level of commitment from China, India, Brazil and other poorer nations. Developing countries complain, meanwhile, that emissions reductions envisioned in pending U.S. legislation are too weak.
The dispute threatens to block final agreement at the U.N. climate conference scheduled for Dec. 7-20 in Copenhagen, Denmark.
In releasing the emissions data, U.S. climate treaty chief Yvo de Boer said the numbers "underscore, once again, the urgent need to seal a comprehensive, fair and effective climate change deal in Copenhagen."
In the Kyoto framework, overall emissions by the 37 ratifying nations in 2007 were 16 percent below the level of 1990 — seemingly good progress, except that the reductions came largely from the industrial slowdown that occurred in Eastern Europe in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet bloc. Those countries' emissions grew between 2000 and 2007.
Next year's report on 2008 emissions is expected to show a "momentary dip" because of the global recession, de Boer noted, but overall "the continuing growth of emissions from industrialized countries remains worrying."
China and other developing countries don't report emissions to the treaty secretariat. But the International Energy Agency says Chinese output of carbon dioxide grew by 7.6 percent from 2006 to 2007, as it surpassed the U.S. as the world's biggest emitter. Compared with population, China emitted 4.57 tons of carbon dioxide per capita, while the U.S. emitted 19.10 tons per capita.