Hopes for holding global warming to safe levels are all but gone.
After dipping in the recession during 2009, global carbon emissions hit their highest mark ever in 2010, according to the International Energy Agency. The most serious recession in 80 years had only a minimal affect on emissions.
IEA estimates global emissions climbed to a record 30.6 Gigatonnes (Gt), a 5% jump from the previous record year in 2008, when levels reached 29.3 Gt.
40% of the rise in emissions came from developing countries, led by China and India. US emissions from power plants also grew at a record pace in 2010, rising 5.56% compared to 2009.
Scientists concur temperatures must be prevented from rising over 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels to avoid the threshold for potentially runaway, uncontrollable climate change.
The IEA analysis concludes that 80% of electricity generation- related emissions are already locked in until 2020. Those fossil fuel plants are already built and will likely not be taken out of service.
"Our latest estimates are another wake-up call," says Fatih Birol, IEA chief economist. "The world has edged incredibly close to the level of emissions that should not be reached until 2020 if the 2ºC target is to be attained. Given the shrinking room for manœuvre in 2020, unless bold and decisive decisions are made very soon, it will be extremely challenging to succeed in achieving this global goal agreed in Cancun."
China Coal Imports Expected to Double by 2015
To make matters worse, industry executives said on Monday they expect China to double its imports of coal over the next four years to meet its surging demand for power - despite the environmental costs.
China currently imports about 90 million tons of coal each year. But that figure could rise to 200 million tons by 2015, according to Neil Dhar, executive vice president of trading house Noble Group.
China is the second largest importer of coal, following Japan, and India's imports are growing swiftly - from 67 million tons in 2011 to an estimated 100 million tons in 2015.
India To Launch Market-Based Scheme for Carbon Reductions
India is instituting an innovative cap-and-trade market-based scheme to keep a lid on growing carbon emissions.
The mandatory program, Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT), sets benchmark efficiency levels for 563 big polluters, like power plants and cement plants.
Businesses that use less energy can sell energy saving certificates - called Escerts - to businesses that exceed the benchmark. This cap-and-trade market is expected to be worth about $16 billion in 2014 when trading starts.
The number of Escerts granted to a company depends on the amount of energy saved in a target year, thus creaing a strong (and immediate) incentive for energy efficiency.
The program could be more effective in the near term than the Eurpean Union's emissions trading scheme, which led to windfall profits in the early years because they gave emissions credits free of charge.
The PAT program is in addition to India's exisiting market for renewable energy certificates (REC) from wind, solar and biomass power production.
That market is growing rapidly. The latest sale of RECs in May included more than 14,000 certificates, with a trading value of $4.6 million. That's up from a mere 260 certificates traded in April.