Emission intensity rise points to “dirty” global recovery

By RTCC Staff

emissions from factories

(Source: UN)

Carbon emissions grew faster than the economy in many countries last year, indicating the global recovery has been a “dirty” one.

As countries acted to move out of the recession envrionmental issues were relegated down their league of concerns, according to a new report from Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC).

Analysis by the PwC Low Carbon Economy Index shows that in 2010 while global GDP rose by 5 per cent, emissions emissions rose by nearly 6 per cent.

This signals a reverse of the gradual reduction seen in carbon emissions intensity since 2000. PwC says this calls into question the likelihood that global decarbonisation could happen at the rate needed to limit global warming to 2 degree Celsius.

With three weeks to go until the UN Climate Summit in Durban, the report highlights the need to resolve the low carbon financing challenge and decouple economic and emissions growth in order to meet targets agreed at the Cancun Climate Conference last year.

Leo Johnson, partner for sustainability and climate change at PwC said: “The results are the starkest yet. Our analysis points unambiguously towards one conclusion, that we are at the limits of what is achievable in terms of carbon reduction, when you consider the growth cycles predicted for developed and developing nations, versus what is required in term of carbon reduction to stay within the 2 degrees scenario.”

A country’s carbon intensity is measured as the amount of carbon by weight emitted per unit of energy consumed and provides an insight into how reliant a country’s economy is on fossil fuels.

Globally, carbon intensity now needs to reduce by 4.8 per cent a year, twice the rate predicted in 2000.

For the UK – where last year emissions increased by 3.5 per cent, more than double the 1.3 per cent growth in economic growth – there needs to be a 5.6 per cent cut in carbon intensity per year to hit its commitment under the Kyoto Protocol.

While the UK sat third from bottom of the PwC Index, above only Saudi Arabia and Brazil, most of the other countries which recorded significant rises in carbon intensity were from the developing world.

Fast growing countries such as China, Brazil and Korea were among those who contributed to what PwC referred to as a “dirty” recovery.

Many of the G20 countries – both developed and developing – also saw increases in their carbon intensity in 2010 and the report points towards cold winters in the northern hemisphere, the fall in the price of coal relative to gas and a drop in renewable energy deployment as contributing factors.

On the other end of the scale, South Africa, India and Canada improved their carbon intensity in 2010, with Australia coming out top of the index with a 10.9 per cent decline.

While these results show that the recommended annual rate of decarbonising of 4.8 per cent is possible, the report says it will be “extremely challenging” to sustain this every year in every country till 2050.


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