Decrease in global CO2 emissions

Global CO2 emissions decreased in 2009, the first decrease recorded this decade. However, in China and India the emissions increased by 9 and 6 percent.

The results are based on the first peer-reviewed paper to estimate emissions in 2009.  

“The decrease in emissions follow the decrease in the global economy. This is not unexpected”, said  Gunnar Myhre, senior research fellow at CICERO and one of the scientists behind the article.

While emissions from oil and gas have decreased, emissions from coal have remained stable.

Growth in China and India

In contrast to many other countries, China and India increased their emissions in 2009. China is now responsible for 24 percent of the global fossil emissions of CO2.

“China and India are to a little extent hit by the financial crisis”, Gunnar Myhre said.

But Chinese emissions have increased more than the economic growth. Glen Peters is a senior research fellow at CICERO and follows the emission development in these countries closely. He pointed to China’s large investments in infrastructure and export production since 2009.

“When China invests in roads or buildings, this causes large emissions, as industries like cement and steel industries are very emission intensive”, Peters said.

The stimulus package from the Chinese government in 2008 was said to have a green focus.  

“But even construction of windmills is a relatively emission intensive activity – at least in the short run”, said Peters.

Large export sector

China also has a large export sector. Exports initially had a big drop during the financial crisis, but quickly recovered.

“Due to large exports, China doesn’t only benefit from its own stimulus package, but also from stimulus packages in other countries”, said Peters.

“Also, when times are tough, people go for the cheaper alternative. During the financial crisis, people might tend to buy more Chinese products”.

When there is a large growth in a country’s economy, usually one can see a shift towards services and lower emissions relative to GDP. This has not happened in China.

“Chinese emissions are currently increasing faster than GDP. You’d hope that it has some pay off in the future, but time will tell”, Glen Peters said.

Full bibliographic information


Addendum to 'A fast method for updating global fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions'.
G Myhre, K Alterskjær and D Lowel, 2010
Environ. Res. Lett. 5 039701
doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/5/3/039701
Attached files
  • Addendum to ‘A fast method for updating global fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions’

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