Power sector emissions ‘racing in the wrong direction’

Posted by Laura Grant on September 2, 2008
Posted in Green News

Emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas causing global warming, from the power generation sector have increased by more than 34 percent in the past eight years, according to the Centre for Global Development (CGD), a Washington-based think tank.

This does not bode well for international efforts to combat climate change. Power generation accounts for more than a quarter of all global carbon dioxide emissions, and the proportion is rising rapidly, the CGD says.

Thr CGD attributes much of the increase since 2000 to the surge in the number of new coal-fired power stations being built in China, which has now surpassed the United States as the world’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide from power generation, according to updated data from GDG’s Carbon Monitoring for Action (CARMA).

“The new data show that emissions from power generation are racing in the wrong direction,” says David Wheeler of the CGD. “We urgently need to cut power-related carbon dioxide emissions and to very rapidly bring down the price of proven, zero-carbon renewable power sources, such as wind and solar.”

CARMA’s latest list of the top-10 power sector emitters in absolute terms are China, the United States, India, Russia, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, and South Korea.

The picture looks very different in per capita terms, though. The group says that Americans produce about 9.5 tons of carbon dioxide per person per year through their electricity usage. The Chinese produce a mere 2.4 tons per person per year in comparison. India produces 0.6 tons per person and Brazil 0.1 tons. Australia is the only country that emits more power-related emissions per person than the US, at more than 10 tons per year, says the CDG.

The top-ten power companies in the world in terms of power sector emissions include five in China, two in the US, one in India, one in South Africa (Eskom), and one in Germany.

“A number of power companies have expressed desire for national policies to limit emissions and promote alternative energy,” said Kevin Ummel, who manages the CARMA database. “But without financial incentives for big emitters to change their behaviour, they continue operating and building carbon-intensive plants – and Earth’s climate moves closer to the breaking point.”

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