‘First world’ emissions on the rise

Global greenhouse gas emissions from industrialised countries are on the rise again after having been offset by the economic slow-down in post-Soviet countries during the 1990s, new data from the UN shows.

Total emissions from 41 developed countries rose by 2.4% between 2000 and 2004, the UNFCCC Greenhouse Gas Data, 2006 report indicates.

Although overall GHG emissions fell by 3.3% between 1990 and 2004, the economic slow-down in Russia and former communist states accounts for most of that decrease.

The 36.8% fall in emissions from the former Soviet block – otherwise known as “economies in transition,” or EITs – disguised the 11% rise in emissions across the rest of the industrialised world, the UN report pointed out.

“The worrying fact is that EITs, which were mostly responsible for the overall emissions reductions of industrialised countries so far, as a group have experienced an emission increase of 4.1% in the period 2000-2004,” said Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“This means that industrialised countries will need to intensify their efforts to implement strong policies which reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Publication of the new data coincides with the Stern Review of the economics of climate change launched in the UK on Monday, which found that unabated climate change will lead to an economic slow-down on a global scale that will see living standards worldwide fall by 5-20% (see related story).

It also precedes next week’s international talks in Nairobi, Kenya, where the international community will seek a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol which will become obsolete in 2012.

Kyoto signatory countries had together managed to cut their emissions by 15.3% from 1990 levels by 2004, the data showed, but the individual performance of countries varied.

While Britain, France and Germany were on track for achieving their Kyoto targets, many others including Spain and Portugal were way off the mark, the UN said.

Outsiders to the Kyoto process, led by the US, remained the world’s most polluting nation having increased its emissions by 15.4% over the 1990-2004 period.

The fact that the UN data did not include fast-developing countries like China, India and Brazil may have lowered the estimated rise for 2000-2004.

The UN report also pointed to the transport sector, globally producing 23.9% more emission in 2004 than in 1990, as an urgent area to tackle.

Goska Romanowicz

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