10 june 2009

World CO2-Emissions Growth Keeps Focus on Coal, China

June 10 2009 (Bloomberg) -- World carbon-dioxide emissions from energy use rose last year as China, India and Russia burned more coal, the most polluting of the major fuels, data compiled by BP Plc indicate.

Fossil-fuel combustion in power plants, vehicles and heaters around the planet released 31.5 billion metric tons of the greenhouse gas, 1.8 percent more than in 2007, the figures show. China’s coal consumption climbed 7.1 percent, adding 366 million tons of extra emissions, using conversion factors provided by BP, the U.K. oil company.

Coal now produces more CO2 than oil, and China’s growing share of its use means both themes will drive global talks under way for a new climate-protection treaty. At the same time, developed countries continue releasing many times more gases per person than less-wealthy economies, a fact China uses in arguing that the new emissions cuts should come from richer nations.

“Solving coal in China is a linchpin of addressing global warming,” Jake Schmidt, international climate policy director of the Natural Resources Defense Council said today in a telephone interview from Bonn. “We can’t get to where we need to go without a solution to that.”

India and Russia increased coal use by 8.7 percent, and 8.3 percent, respectively, BP data show.

Overall, energy-related emissions slowed their growth from the 2.8 percent gain of 2007, as countries entered recession.

China Argument

Envoys from 180 nations are meeting in Bonn this week to negotiate a successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, a treaty whose limits on heat-trapping gases such as carbon dioxide expire in 2012. Scientists blame added emissions that absorb heat through a “greenhouse effect” for changing the climate.

“If we take as a given the current rate of Chinese energy increase primarily from coal, that has to be reversed” to help fight climate change effectively, U.S. global warming treaty negotiator Jonathan Pershing said June 1 in an interview in Bonn. “Unless we can do that, the world is going to be in a really much worse place.”

China has called on richer countries to adopt more emission limits and to change their “unsustainable way of life,” arguing that they spewed the majority of accumulated gases over history and still pollute more per person.

The U.S. released 20.9 tons of emissions from oil, natural gas per person in 2008, compared with 5.2 tons in China, which has about 1.3 billion people, the BP data show.

Coal use in the U.S. fell 1.4 percent.

Coal Growth

World coal consumption grew 3.4 percent, a faster pace than natural gas or electricity demand for a sixth year in 2008. Oil use dropped 0.3 percent in the year.

BP Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward said carbon-based fuels “will remain the dominant source of energy well into the future,” at a presentation in London. Yet charging companies for releasing carbon, a strategy used in Europe and being considered in the U.S., will undercut the most-polluting fuels, he said.

“If you put a real price on carbon you will see the benefit of investing in gas over coal.” Coal releases an average 69 percent more CO2 than natural gas, according to BP figures.

The U.S. completed three days of talks with Chinese officials today, saying they made progress on cooperating in energy and efficiency projects and on a new climate-protection treaty to be signed in Copenhagen this year.

U.S.-China Talks

“These meetings were a step in the right direction on the road to Copenhagen and to charting a global path to a clean energy future,” U.S. spokeswoman Susan Stevenson said in a statement today from Beijing.

Energy accounts for more than 80 percent of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere, according to the International Energy Agency, the Paris-based adviser to 28 oil- consuming nations such as the U.S. and U.K.

“We need all the tools in the toolbox, and in China there’s no single silver bullet,” Schmidt said. “It has to be a mix of energy efficiency, renewables and scaled up carbon capture and storage.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Mathew Carr in London at m.carr@bloomberg.netAlex Morales in London at

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