The world's industrial emissions of climate-changing carbon dioxide held steady last year, as recession slowed production in rich countries while growth in China and India made up the difference, a leading monitoring agency reported today.
The Netherlands Environment Assessment Agency said last year was the first since 1992 that registered zero growth in carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, cement production and chemical industries - key sources of greenhouse gases.
It did not take into account, however, measurements from deforestation, forest fires and the release of carbon from decomposing biomass, which could add as much as 20% to global emissions.
The Dutch government-sponsored agency was the first to report that China had overtaken the United States as the world's largest carbon polluter in 2006.
Its evaluations are based on energy data from the oil company BP, the International Energy Agency and the figures from cement, steel and other industries collected by the EDGAR project of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre.
Emissions shrank in the leading industrial countries by 7%, or 800 million tons, last year, but that was compensated by a 9% increase in China and 6% in India, said the report, issued annually.
China has more than doubled its emissions since 2000 to reach 8.1 billion tons, even though for the past five years it has annually doubled its capacity of wind and solar energy.
India's emissions have grown 50% since 2000, and it has now surpassed Russia as the world's fifth largest carbon polluter, said the report.
Measured by country, China remains the largest polluter, but the United States emits nearly three times more per person than the Chinese, it said.
The report comes as 194 countries try to reach an agreement to control the gases that scientists say are raising the Earth's average temperatures, which if unchecked could lead to catastrophic water shortages, rising seas and coastal flooding, and more severe drought in arid zones.
A summit of about 120 world leaders in Copenhagen last December proved disappointing, and negotiators have lowered their ambitions for the next major climate conference in Cancun, Mexico, at the end of this year.
The sought-for agreement is meant to succeed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which called on 37 wealthy countries to reduce carbon emissions by about 5% from 1990 levels by 2012. It set no targets for rapidly developing countries.
The report said industrial country emissions already are 10% below their 1990 levels, but they still could be in trouble once they recover from the recession and resume full production.
It said total global emissions last year were 31.3 billion tons - 40% more than in 1990.