Beijing top emitter of carbon dioxide, Dutch agency says

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AMSTERDAM — China has overtaken the United States as the top emitter of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, because of surging energy use during an economic boom, a Dutch government-funded agency said yesterday.

Other researchers have estimated that China would surpass the U.S. in the coming years, but the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency said yesterday that China became the No. 1 carbon polluter last year.

China’s 2006 carbon-dioxide emissions surpassed those of the United States by 8 percent,” the agency said yesterday. In 2005, it said, China’s emissions were 2 percent below those of the United States.

“With this, China tops the list of CO2-emitting countries for the first time,” it said. Most — but not all — scientists say rising amounts of carbon dioxide will bring more droughts, floods, desertification, heat waves, disease and rising seas.

The report, based on data on energy use and cement production, estimated that China’s carbon-dioxide emissions totaled 6.2 billion tons last year. Of the total, 550 million tons was from cement, a main source of industrial emissions.

U.S. emissions totaled 5.8 billion tons last year, of which 50 million tons was from cement, it said. The report said the European Union was the next biggest emitter, ahead of Russia, India and Japan.

The International Energy Agency (IEA), which advises wealthier nations, said in April that China was likely to surpass the United States as the top carbon-dioxide emitter this year or next.

The Dutch agency said its data were based on cement data from the U.S. Geological Survey and energy-use data until 2004 from the IEA. Carbon dioxide accounts for about 75 percent of greenhouse gases.

China’s economy has registered double-digit growth for four years in a row and expanded by 11.1 percent in the first quarter compared with a year earlier because of booming investments and exports.

China and other major developing nations have promised to do their “fair share” to curb greenhouse gases but say it is too early to talk about caps or cuts when rising energy use is key to helping hundreds of millions of people escape poverty.

Developing nations say countries with the highest per-capita emissions should show the way. President Bush has said China and other developing nations must do more.

With a population of 1.3 billion, China’s per-capita emissions are a quarter of those in the United States, with 300 million people.

The Group of Eight leading industrial nations agreed at a summit early this month to make “substantial cuts” in emissions and to try to work out a global treaty by 2009 to succeed the Kyoto Protocol. Kyoto binds 35 wealthier nations to cut emissions to 5 percent below 1990 levels from next year to 2012. China is not a member of that group.

Meanwhile, the second-ranking U.S. diplomat welcomed his Chinese counterpart to the State Department yesterday for two days of talks meant to ease tensions and strengthen ties between the two nations.

Before heading into their meeting, Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte and Executive Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo exchanged pleasantries but took no questions from reporters.

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