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Environment Carbon emissions at record high

CARBON dioxide emissions hit a record high of 32.5 billion tonnes last year, with the 1.4 per cent increase ending a three-year plateau, the International Energy Agency reported today.

Experts said it was the result of greatly increased energy demand — more than twice the extra demand in 2016. While renewable energy grew at much the same rate in 2016, fossil fuels were used to plug the gap.

China accounted for 150 million tonnes of the 450m tonnes increase in CO2, with its emissions growing by about 1.7 per cent.

The rest of Asia saw emissions grow by about 3 per cent or 120m tonnes. European Union emissions increased by 1.5 per cent or 50m tonnes.

And while the emissions of the US actually shrank by 0.5 per cent, 25m tonnes, climate researcher Glen Peters speculated that it might be the “calm before the storm” brought on by the pro-fossil fuel policies of Donald Trump’s government.

The IEA findings are worrying given the global political consensus on cutting emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases to avert catastrophic climate change.

Global demand for oil increased by 1.6 per cent — over double the average increase over the past decade.

It is now almost two-and-a-half years since the Paris Agreement on climate change was signed, but the deep cuts in emissions that must be made, mostly by rich countries, have not taken place.

While the Paris Agreement was celebrated at the time — principally because any kind of deal was reached — it leaves the specifics on climate action up to individual countries.

These “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs) are currently nowhere near enough to limit global warming to 2°C by 2100, which would still involve significant destruction, or the 1.5°C goal where devastation is more limited.

Current INDC pledges would lead to 3.2°C of warming, causing many more deaths from heat waves, drought and floods, crop failures and the extinction of a lot more species.

Drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions must take place now to have any chance at staying below 2°C of warming by 2100.

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