Global CO2 emissions stagnate

Little reductions in the big issuers, further increase in developing countries

Although worldwide CO2 emissions are stagnating, this is not enough for effective climate protection. © tibu / thinkstock
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Only a limited positive: Global CO2 emissions did not increase further in 2016, but they did not fall. As the current world greenhouse gas balance showed, global CO2 emissions remained relatively unchanged at 35 billion tons. In China, the EU and Japan, there were hardly any changes compared to the previous year; emissions in the USA and Russia fell slightly. India's CO2 emissions continue to increase.

In the climate agreement of Paris, the states agreed on a climate protection target of a maximum of two degrees warming. But to achieve this, global greenhouse gas emissions would have to be reduced significantly and quickly. So far, however, is little to feel. The CO2 levels are now permanently over 400 ppm and many countries, including Germany, will miss their climate protection targets, if nothing changes.

Unchanged for the third year in a row

The current global greenhouse gas balance has now been determined by the Joint Research Center (JRC) of the EU and the Dutch Environmental Agency PBL. The main result: anthropogenic CO2 emissions were globally around 35.8 gigatonnes, about the same as in 2015. Global emissions are thus stagnating for the third year in a row, the researchers report.

The five largest emitters of CO2 are still China, the USA, the EU, India, Russia and Japan. Together, they account for 68% of global CO2 emissions and 65% of total greenhouse gases. Shipping and air traffic now account for around three percent of global emissions - with a clear upward trend.

CO2 per capita emissions of the world's top four emitters from 1970 to 2016 © EU Joint Research Center

Stagnation in Germany and the EU

Looking at the individual countries, developments are different: in the EU, CO2 emissions remained at a high level. After rising slightly in 2015, emissions remained steady in 2016. Each EU citizen is responsible per capita every year for the emission of around 6.8 tonnes of climate-damaging carbon dioxide. Overall, EU emissions account for 9.6 percent of global emissions. display

With its CO2 emissions, Germany is higher than the EU average. In Germany, 9.5 tonnes of CO2 are emitted per year to every inhabitant, as the researchers calculated. This is in the similar range as in Japan and the Netherlands and is rather a slight increase compared to 2015. It was only recently announced that Germany was in danger of missing its own climate protection targets by 2020.

Slight decrease in Russia and the US

In the US, CO2 emissions decreased by two percent compared to 2015. The reason for this is, above all, a decrease in coal combustion in favor of natural gas and crude oil, as the scientists discovered. Yet, around 97 percent of US emissions still stem from burning fossil fuels - more than in any other G20 state.

In Russia, too, CO2 emissions have fallen by around two percent for the fourth year in a row. This is due to a slight decline in gross domestic product and a reduction in coal consumption by 5.3 percent and gas by 3 percent. However, with emissions per capita of 11.5 percent, Russia's emissions are higher than in the EU, China and Japan, but lower than in the US.

Development of China's CO2 emissions from fossil fuels EU Joint Research Center

Positive development in China, further increase in India

China's CO2 emissions in 2016 remained virtually unchanged. The most populous country is still the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases. However, per inhabitant, Chinese emissions amount to 7.4 tonnes of CO2 per capita and year, about the same as in the EU. Positive, after all, emissions in China stagnated, although in the same period energy consumption increased by ten percent and the gross domestic product even by 31 percent. The gradual abandonment of coal in favor of renewable energies, but also nuclear power, is showing its first effect here.

India is the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China, the US and the EU, and its CO2 emissions continue to rise. In 2016, it increased by 4.7 percent compared to the previous year. In addition, unlike China, India has not yet succeeded in decoupling its emissions from economic growth, the researchers report. However, looking at the per capita emissions of 1.9 tonnes per year, this is more than four times lower than in the EU and eight times lower than in the US.

(European Commission, Joint Research Center (JRC), 23.10.2017 - NPO)