Drop in rich countries' emissions caused by recession in 2009 was nullified by steep increases from China and India
Greenhouse gas emissions from rich countries fell a record 7% in 2009 because of the recession, but the cut was entirely nullified by steep increases from fast-growing China and India, according to one of Europe's leading scientific research groups.
Overall, this meant annual global climate emissions remained steady for the first time since 1992, says the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency which drew on energy-use data from the US government, the EU, BP energy data, the cement industry, and elsewhere.
But the Dutch government-funded agency, which in 2007 was the first to correctly identify that China had overtaken the US as the world's greatest greenhouse gas polluter, warned that the figures did not mean that rich countries had cleaned up their act.
"A large part of production capacity has been suspended, but this could be re-employed as soon as the economy improves. It is likely that a recovering economy would cause emission levels in industrialised countries to go up. Nevertheless, the economic downturn has meant that these countries can meet their reduction obligations with more ease," said NEAA spokeswoman Anneke Oosterhuis.
"Another consequence of this downturn is that some industrialised countries may need to purchase fewer emission rights from reduction projects in developing countries, which, in turn, means that there will be less money available for emission reductions in those developing countries," said Oosterhuis.
The figures will come as a relief to the world's rich countries which – the US aside – are legally committed to reducing emissions by a collective 5.2% on 1990 figures by 2012. As it stands, says the Dutch agency, they are now 10% below 1990 levels, well below the Kyoto target level.
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