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Carbon Monitoring for Action (CARMA) is a global database that gathers and presents the best available estimates of CO2 emissions for 50,000 power plants around the world and the identities of the 4,000 firms that own them. Electricity production is responsible for about one-quarter of all climate-warming greenhouse gas pollution, and CARMA is the only global database for tracking specific sources of CO2, the most important greenhouse gas. First launched in 2007, CARMA was expanded and upgraded in 2012 to incorporate data from authorities in the United States, European Union, Canada, India, and South Africa as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency. For facilities lacking publicly-disclosed data, estimates are generated using a new suite of statistical models.
The objective of CARMA is to provide information necessary to create a cleaner, low-carbon future. By providing complete information for both clean and dirty power producers, CARMA hopes to influence the opinions and decisions of consumers, investors, shareholders, managers, workers, activists, and policymakers. CARMA builds on experience with public information disclosure techniques that have proven successful in reducing traditional pollutants.
My guest on this week’s Wonkcast is Cao Jing, one of China’s leading experts on carbon taxes. A CGD visiting fellow and associate professor of economics at Tsinghua University in Beijing, Jing was recently the subject of a Bloomberg profile. Working in collaboration with others at Harvard University, she is developing a proposal for China to tax carbon emissions. She is also involved with the "New Climate Economy Study" (also called Stern 2, to review economic costs and benefits of tackling climate change) led by former President of Mexico Felipe Calderón and Lord Nicholas Stern, author of the landmark Stern Report on the economics of climate change. Jing recently presented the plan at CGD’s Research in Progress seminar, and I’m delighted that she agreed to join me on the show to discuss it.
First a bit of background: here in the United States those who would prefer that we not take action to address climate change often point to China, the world’s largest emitter of heat-trapping gasses, as an excuse not to act. But it’s important to remember that China’s per capita emissions are still only about a quarter of the per capita emissions of Americans [Sophia please check]. Moreover, China is beginning to act. Some listeners know that China has set up an experimental cap-and-trade system, with pilots in five cities and two provinces, and in February the ministry of finance announced the intention to impose a carbon tax.
I ask Jing, who was originally studying geology at Beijing University, how she came to focus on environmental economics instead.
She recalled travelling on a school field trip to Qinhuangdao, China’s largest coal-shipping port. “I was staying in a hotel and reading a book by the window, and in just five minutes the book pages were covered with dust,” Jing says. “I thought ‘can we do anything about that?’”
Not long afterwards, on a trip to Singapore, she was struck at how new the buildings appeared, even though they were much older than those in Beijing. “Buildings with 10 years’ history in China look like they are 30 years old. The damage of acid rain on the buildings in Beijing compared to the buildings in Singapore struck me a lot,” she says.
Today she is the co-author of a forthcoming MIT study, Clearer Skies Over China, that draws upon integrated economic models, emissions database information, weather patterns, agricultural productivity, and other advanced modeling techniques to estimate the impacts of various carbon taxation scenarios. I ask Jing for a preview of the report’s key recommendations.
“Our results showed that a carbon tax would be a cost-effective multi-pollutant control strategy, and it would have significant co- benefits to public health and crop production,” she explains. “The negative impacts on GDP can be tolerable and, under certain revenue cases, can lead to a win-win solution. If we include the health benefits, the carbon tax is likely to be a no-regrets policy.”
Jing explains that China’s energy taxes are currently quite low—and not indexed for inflation. For example, the tax on coal is the equivalent of only about 40 US cents per ton. Among the many scenarios proposed in the forthcoming study, one has carbon taxes starting 10 yuan per ton of emissions and rising gradually to 50 yuan by 2020. The study estimates the positive effect on crops and human health—through associated reductions in conventional pollution—and finds only a tiny negative impact on GDP growth, a reduction of just 0.14 percentage points. Says Jing: “it’s an almost invisible change.”
Jing also describes her team’s proposal to recycle some of the revenue by providing rebates to households. “The tax will be likely to be regressive, because the total share of energy expenditure will be relatively higher for poorer people than rich people,” she says.
I asked Jing if 100% of tax revenue would be recycled or if some would be retained. Jing suggests that some of the revenue could be retained by local and provincial governments, which lack adequate revenue sources and have high and rising debt. Such an approach would be in line with the Finance Ministry’s announcement earlier this year.
We close by discussing whether the US may move towards a similar carbon taxation policy. We agree that progress in either country indirectly exerts pressure on the other. Jing says that the US Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement of new rules for power plant emissions in September caught the attention of Chinese policymakers, who felt increased pressure to proceed with their own policies to address climate change.
“I think it’s a game between both countries that serves as reinforcement,” Jing says.
My thanks to Sophia Bernazzani for an initial draft of this blog post, and to Kristina Wilson for recording the Wonkcast.
Imagine for a moment a world in which rich countries followed through on their rather vague promise at the 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen to mobilize $100 billion per year by 2020 to help developing countries reduce their emissions and cope with climate change. How should that money be spent?
Since that pledge was made most of the efforts have focused, understandably, on how to raise the money. After all, if you can’t raise it you can’t spend it. But a major obstacle in raising the money has been lack of agreement on how it would be spent. In recognition of that problem, CGD hosted a conference last week, How to Spend It (If We Had It): Priorities for Allocating International Climate Change Finance. While there was no consensus there were plenty of good ideas.
How much and where?
CGD President Nancy Birdsall kicked off the day-long event by asking participants, many of whom are experts in development finance, how much they believed could be raised. Many thought that public finance would be quite modest, much less than the $100 billion. Artur Cardoso de Lacerda, a senior official with Brazil’s finance ministry, and Billy Pizer, formerly of the US Treasury, outlined priorities from the point of view of a recipient and funder country. Artur urged that funds go to support the recipient’s own climate plans.
Barry Carin from the Center for International Governance Innovation questioned whether funds should be transferred to developing countries at all, arguing from a real politik point of view that the funds would be easier to raise—and just as useful in addressing climate change—if the funds were spent on technology and emissions at home. Would legislators be more inclined to appropriate funding if it were spent in their own countries?
A clear priority is the need to develop low-carbon (eventually zero-carbon), low-cost energy sources so that developing countries can meet their energy needs for poverty-reducing economic growth and advanced economies can maintain their standards of living. Michael Levi, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, suggested “governments must play a crucial role in promoting innovation by funding research and development on new energy technologies.”
CGD senior fellow Arvind Subramanian suggested that advanced countries transfer technology to developing countries in exchange for imposing a border tax on their exports, based on his recent CGD book “Greenprint.” Julia Bucknall, sector manager for energy in the South Asia region of the World Bank, provided promising evidence of a resurgence in support for climate-friendly hydropower at the World Bank.
However, despite advances in solar, wind, and other low-carbon energy technologies, Howard Herzog, senior research engineer in the MIT Energy Initiative, argued that without rapid advances in carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology it will not be possible avert runaway climate change.
“The largest growing energy source in the world is coal, and gas follows the same path” particularly in developing countries like China, he said. Efforts to capture and sequester greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) have stalled and, lacking a high price on carbon emissions, the cost of sequestration will prove prohibitive. Herzog estimated that even once a number of plants are operational the cost will still be around $70-100 per ton of carbon sequestered. In other words, funding brilliant new ideas for CCS and low/zero-carbon energy and finding ways to make these technologies available in fast-growing developing economies should be high on the agenda.
Leveraging private capital
With dim prospects for securing large amounts of public funding for climate, a persistent priority is to create innovative new financing products that will motivate institutional investors (who manage a global savings pool of $80 TRILLION) to invest in climate-friendly projects in developing countries.
In a lively panel moderated by Shilpa Patel, John Morton, vice-president for investment policy at the US Overseas Private Investment Corp. (OPIC); Ken Lay, senior managing director at the Rock Creek Group; and IFC’s Vikram Widge outlined exciting new ideas being explored at their respective institutions to lengthen maturities (beyond the 3-5 year timeframe offered by commercial banks), aggregate risk classes (like advanced and developing country cities), and apply risk-reducing insurance tools. Watch this space for more news about these exciting new green finance initiatives.
The critical role of forests
CGD senior fellow Frances Seymour, who arrived at CGD recently after six years in Indonesia as director general of the Center for Research on Tropical Forests (CIFOR), reminded the group that one important use of climate change finance must be to reduce the significant share of global GHGs released by the deforestation of tropical rainforests.
In a moving lunchtime address, Seymour said that it’s time to refresh the forest agenda with rigorous analysis of why forests are important to climate change and development, and what can be done to stem forest loss. Under Seymour’s leadership, CGD is preparing to launch a new initiative aimed at refocusing attention on forests as a critical weapon in combating climate change and assessing the potential of “payment-for-performance” schemes to increase the flow of targeted funding to reduce deforestation.
On this second point, Frances and others will draw on CGD’s extensive work on Cash on Delivery Aid. Jonah Busch, who recently joined CGD from Conservation International, outlined the lessons from ongoing pay-for-performance programs to reduce deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+).
Getting the most out of government and institution policies
What about using public climate finance to support policy reforms that will provide incentives for climate-smart investments? A self-described right-wing Republican, Eli Lehrer, of The R Street Institute, made a compelling case for implementing a revenue-neutral carbon tax in the United States and offered a range of ideas on how to eliminate or reduce existing taxes and use new carbon tax revenues as an offset. Such a strategy, Lehrer suggested, could be politically appealing to Republican voters. Ian Parry of the IMF’s Fiscal Affairs Department presented evidence from a new IMF book on the need to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, which amount to $2 trillion annually globally. And Xueman Wang from the World Bank’s Carbon Finance group outlined a program to develop market-based tools for GHG emissions reduction in 16 developing countries.
As the world looks to the Green Climate Fund and other mechanisms to facilitate the transfer of climate finance to developing countries, lessons from the ongoing Climate Investment Funds (CIFs), which were crisply summarized by the World Bank’s Patricia Bliss-Guest, senior manager of the CIFs, can help. Many people think that the GCF should focus primarily on adaptation finance to the poorest and most vulnerable countries, and I outlined suggestions from my paper with Nancy Birdsall on principles for managing adaptation finance.
The conference, the second in a series of three organized by the Korea Development Institute, CGD, and CIGI, highlighted pressing priorities for spending climate finance, most of which would also deliver development and ecological benefits. The list of priorities should reassure public funders that there funds could be put to good use. Now if they could just deliver them.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an extraordinary undertaking. Hundreds of scientists volunteer to put their professional lives on hold for months or years at a time. They synthesize the findings of thousands of peer-reviewed scientific articles to provide policymakers and the public with the best current scientific understanding of climate change. Thousands more experts review and provide comments on sections of the report (I was one of these thousands).
On Friday in Stockholm the IPCC released the first of a series of four reports comprising its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), documenting the “physical science basis” of climate change. You won’t see any direct mention in this report of fires, floods or hurricanes; those topics will be covered in a companion report on “impacts, adaptation and vulnerability” to be released in March. A report to be released in April on “mitigation of climate change” will include renewable energy, energy efficiency and reduced deforestation. And a synthesis report will be released next October.
Here are twelve takeaway messages from Friday’s IPCC report. (The titles are mine; the quoted text and italicization is taken directly from the report’s 36-page Summary for Policymakers).
1. Climate change is undeniably occurring.
“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.”
2. We’ve never seen anything like this before.
“The atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide have increased to levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. CO2 concentrations have increased by 40% since pre-industrial times, primarily from fossil fuel emissions and secondarily from net land use change emissions.”
3. Humans are the cause.
“Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming, and understanding of the climate system. This evidence for human influence has grown since [The IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report, released in 2007]. It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”
4. Climate change will continue.
“Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.”
5. Get ready for more heat waves…
“It is very likely that heat waves will occur with a higher frequency and duration.”
6. …more and bigger storms…
“Extreme precipitation events over most of the mid-latitude land masses and over wet tropical regions will very likely become more intense and more frequent by the end of this century, as global mean surface temperature increases”
7. …less ice and snow…
“It is very likely that the Arctic sea ice cover will continue to shrink and thin and that Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover will decrease during the 21st century as global mean surface temperature rises. Global glacier volume will further decrease.”
8. …higher sea levels…
“Global mean sea level will continue to rise during the 21st century. Under all RCP scenarios the rate of sea level rise will very likely exceed that observed during 1971–2010 due to increased ocean warming and increased loss of mass from glaciers and ice sheets.”
9. …and acid oceans.
“The ocean has absorbed about 30% of the emitted anthropogenic carbon dioxide, causing ocean acidification…Further uptake of carbon by the ocean will increase ocean acidification.”
10. These changes will be with us for a long time.
“Cumulative emissions of CO2 largely determine global mean surface warming by the late 21st century and beyond. Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries even if emissions of CO2 are stopped. This represents a substantial multi-century climate change commitment created by past, present and future emissions of CO2.”
11. How bad things get is up to us.
“Limiting the warming caused by anthropogenic CO2 emissions alone with a probability of >33%, >50%, and >66% to less than 2°C since the period 1861–1880, will require cumulative CO2 emissions from all anthropogenic sources to stay between 0 and about 1560 GtC, 0 and about 1210 GtC, and 0 and about 1000 GtC since that period respectively. These upper amounts are reduced to about 880 GtC, 840 GtC, and 800 GtC respectively, when accounting for non-CO2 forcings.”
12. It’s irreversible* (but there’s an asterisk).
“A large fraction of anthropogenic climate change resulting from CO2 emissions is irreversible on a multi-century to millennial time scale, except in the case of a large net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere over a sustained period.”
Two weeks ago I joined CGD as a Research Fellow. I am thrilled to join colleagues who follow the science of climate change closely, and who have made the case for years that climate change and the challenges of development are inextricably entwined. The impacts of climate change hit the poor first and worst (see publications by Bill Cline, here and David Wheeler, here). Most emissions have historically come from rich countries, coloring how finance for adaptation to climate change should be transferred (see policy paper by Nancy Birdsall and Michele de Nevers, here). However, the profile of emitting countries has changed rapidly so that mitigating climate change requires new approaches to cooperation between rich and poor nations, as suggested in a new book by Arvind Subramanian. Nancy Birdsall and Bill Savedoff have promoted making foreign aid more efficient and accountable by paying for development outcomes rather than inputs (see their book, “Cash on Delivery,” here). Applying the same principle to performance-based payments for reducing tropical deforestation could provide one of the most cost-effective, politically accepted methods to stabilize the climate, as described here by Frances Seymour.
You can expect to see more on climate and forests from CGD in the coming months. For now, here is one final takeaway from the IPCC report—a message to skeptics seizing upon a slow-down in the rate of increase in surface temperature in the short-term as an excuse to ignore larger trends:
13. Keep your eye on the long-term trends, not on cherry-picked time periods.
“Due to natural variability, trends based on short records are very sensitive to the beginning and end dates and do not in general reflect long-term climate trends. As one example, the rate of warming over the past 15 years (1998–2012; 0.05 [–0.05 to +0.15] °C per decade), which begins with a strong El Niño, is smaller than the rate calculated since 1951 (1951–2012; 0.12 [0.08 to 0.14] °C per decade).”
A Speech!! Given the state of climate politics, the big story here is that the President gave a speech on climate change. Finally! That the Big Green environmental organizations are cheering this as a victory (see NRDC and Sierra Club, for example) is a sad measure of how low expectations have fallen. Was it really just four years ago that the House passed a cap-and-trade bill, only to watch it die in the Senate? Still, it’s better that the president speaks about this than not, and good that he is recognizing that the risks are even greater for developing countries. Obama: “They don’t just have as much to lose, they probably have more to lose.”
Where’s the beef? The speech featured the expected soaring rhetoric but the associated “action plan” contains staggeringly few new policies. Much of it simply touts common sense actions already taken by the Administration, while noting a desire to do more of the same. Fuel economy standards, clean energy permitting, appliance efficiency standards, rural energy efficiency loans, and loan guarantees for “advanced fossil energy projects” do not add up to a shift in policy.
The Presidential Memorandum is the first federal policy to explicitly commit to regulating carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants that that provides about 40% of America's electricity. In truth, however, the carbon standard is more legal inevitability than bold action. The EPA included carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act in 2009, and the Supreme Court narrowly upheld that view last year. So while the president deserves some credit for instructing the EPA to proceed today's announcement is hardly unexpected: after all, it's the EPA's job to regulate pollutants.
Nor did the president tell them to hurry. The EPA has a year to draw up the regulations, and another year to put them in place. At the earliest, the carbon standard will not become effective until 2015, and it's not at all clear how stringent it will be. Given the fierce political and legal opposition of coal-using states to conventional air pollution standards, it seems likely that the carbon standards will be far less timely and biting than the Administration would like us to believe.
Fool me once, fool me twice? Media coverage of the president's speech and laundry list of climate actions may create a sense of movement but it’s unlikely that even a year from now this will be remembered as a watershed moment for US climate policy. I can't decide if the speech is really an attempt to revitalize the climate issue or cynical maneuver to create political space for approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that would transport Canadian tar sands oil to the Gulf of Mexico. Juliet Eilperin, a seasoned Washington Post environmental reporter, notes that Obama’s seemingly strong words on the pipeline leave plenty of wiggle room. Either way, it's hard to see the speech as signaling a shift in basic priorities.
Let’s all work together (or not). The President's speech seems unlikely to alter the climate impasse with major emerging economies. Without aggressive, economy-wide domestic action, it is impossible for a US president to make legitimate demands of China and India. For the time being, the president would do better to focus on points of mutual cooperation such technology transfer and climate adaptation, as argued for by my colleagues Aaditya Mattoo and Arvind Subramanian in their recent book Greenprint, and R&D for smart deployment of renewable energy, as my research demonstrates for South Africa. In this regard, the president’s promise to end US financial support for coal-fired power plants in developing countries, with limited exceptions, is unlikely to make much difference to global emissions but pretty certain to irritate leaders in the developing world, such as those he will be meeting in Africa starting tomorrow.
Obama supporters will argue he is doing all he can faced with Republican opposition to sensible climate legislation in a GOP-controlled House and a Senate subject to minority filibuster. Critics respond that the president could do much more if he were willing to make use of executive orders. Both are right, but both are overlooking the critical issue.
Climate change is a long-term challenge that requires decades of economic transformation. Ultimately, this requires clear and stable incentives that hold up across administrations and election cycles. Only an economy-wide price on carbon – approved by a bipartisan coalition in Congress – can provide the kind of long-term, secure policy that is needed to drive wholesale change domestically and cooperation abroad.
Faced with Congressional opposition, the president has opted for a piecemeal, regulation-heavy approach to climate change that will bring only modest environmental benefits while antagonizing political opponents. I understand the arguments for doing so, but there is then little to prevent a future Republican president from weakening or abandoning the efforts that Obama takes through executive action. As Nancy Birdsall has asked: Is a US Carbon Tax Hopeless – Forever?
Not necessarily. Instead of resigning himself to a deadlocked Congress, the president could put forward a bold legislative proposal that would spark a national debate and put opponents of climate action on the defensive, much as has happened since the 2012 with the US immigration debate. For example, what would happen if the president proposed collecting a per-ton carbon emissions pollution fee and distributing the proceeds to the American public in a way that benefits households across the political spectrum. Such a policy would shift taxes from things we want more of (jobs and income) to things we want less of (pollution).
Moreover, the president could make Republicans an offer that would be extremely difficult to refuse, by designing the proposed pollution rebates or tax cuts to disproportionally benefit households in states and districts likely to be impacted most significantly by higher fossil fuel prices. This is fair and defensible public policy. It would also be politically savvy, since these are often states and districts held by Republicans whose support is needed for bipartisan legislation.
Such an approach would provide cover for moderate Republicans to support climate legislation on the grounds of economic benefits and lower taxes for their constituents. And it would force conservative Republicans who vote against the proposal to explain why they chose the fossil fuel industry over tax relief for American families. Crafted properly, it's hard to see how such a proposal would constitute a political risk, especially for a second-term president.
My current research project attempts to provide the foundation for just such a policy proposal. By identifying the cost of a carbon tax to households in specific districts and simulating the financial effect of various rebate and tax reform policies, it may be possible to construct a “pollution fee and rebate” policy that offers something for everyone. Identifying the consequences of the policy across demographic groups and districts may change how some politicians view the issue.
The president said today that he was open to working with anyone to address climate change. That's good, because he'll have to move beyond the Oval Office and executive action if he wants his legacy to measure up to his rhetoric.
Seven of the top ten CO2-emitting power plants in the world are located in Asia, with plants in South Korea claiming four of the top six spots. At the firm level, companies located in the developing world account for seven of the top ten emitters, with China's large, state-owned power companies accounting for five of the top seven. China, the United States, and India are the world’s top three countries for power plant emissions. And within the United States, 22 of the 25 top emitting Congressional Districts are held by Republicans.Related Content
These are samples of the information now available from an updated and improved version of the Center for Global Development’s online Carbon Monitoring for Action (CARMA) database. A newly updated version, CARMA v3.0, reveals the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, electricity production, corporate ownership, and location of more than 60,000 power plants in over 200 countries.
Electricity production is responsible for about one-quarter of all climate-warming greenhouse gas pollution, and CARMA is the only global database for tracking specific sources of CO2, the most important greenhouse gas.
First launched in 2007, CARMA has been expanded and upgraded to incorporate data from authorities in the United States, European Union, Canada, India, and South Africa as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency. For facilities lacking publicly-disclosed data, estimates are generated using a new suite of statistical models.
Data are available for the year 2004, 2009, and the future, based on power companies’ expansion plans. The comparisons do not reflect emissions per capita, which are much lower in the developing world than in high-income countries.
“The impacts of climate change are hitting poor people in the developing world first and worst,” says CGD president Nancy Birdsall. “While the rich countries have been emitting at high levels for much longer and thus must bear primary responsibility, the new CARMA data remind us that emissions are indeed a global problem. Close monitoring of the emission sources will be an important part of any effort to reduce them.”
By collecting all power plant emissions data into a single, easy-to-access online database, CGD hopes to use the power of public information disclosure to strengthen incentives for reduced emissions around the world, Birdsall said.
Since CARMA was first launched in 2007, an increasing number of companies and governments have begun to officially disclose power plant emission data. “Officially reported CO2 emissions now account for over one-third of the global total for power plants, and CARMA consolidates all of these plant-level reports into a single source,” said David Wheeler, co-founder of CARMA and senior fellow emeritus at CGD.
“For plants and companies that still refuse to disclose, CARMA v3.0 features a new and substantially improved method for estimating their emissions,” he added. “CARMA continues to be the sole source for accurate, comprehensive information on the emissions performance of power companies worldwide.”
The massive Taichung coal power plant in Longjing, Taiwan leads the list of the world's top emitters, producing an estimated 36 million tons of CO2 in 2009. The single largest producer of carbon-free electricity was the Itaipu Dam located on the border of Brazil and Paraguay, beating out the Three Gorges Dam in Hubei Province, China for the top spot.
Top 10 CO2-Emitting Plants in 2009
36,336,000 metric tons CO2
Ponyong, South Korea
32,826,000 metric tons CO2
Taian, South Korea
30,347,000 metric tons CO2
29,500,000 metric tons CO2
Tangjin, South Korea
29,046,000 metric tons CO2
Ha-dong, South Korea
28,719,000 metric tons CO2
26,300,000 metric tons CO2
25,304,000 metric tons CO2
24,812,000 metric tons CO2
Witbank, South Africa
24,652,000 metric tons CO2
A list of top emitting plants is available for download, or you can create a custom list using the Dig Deeper tool.
The leading corporate emitter, China Huaneng Group Corporation, owns or operates power plants that emitted an estimated 417 million tons of CO2. France's EDF Group led all power companies in electricity generation in 2009 using nuclear power plants to provide nearly 80% of the total.
Among major power companies worldwide, Hydro-Québec (Canada) and Corpoelec (Venezuela) are notable for their heavy reliance on hydroelectric sources, while Iberdrola SA (Spain), Nextera Energy (US), Mexico's Federal Electricity Commission, and Enel S.p.A (Italy) are notable for their use of other types of renewable energy.
Top 10 CO2- Emitting Companies in 2009
China Huaneng Group Corp
416,990,000 metric tons CO2
China Datang Corp
325,680,000 metric tons CO2
China Guodian Corp
312,980,000 metric tons CO2
China Huadian Group Corp
306,940,000 metric tons CO2
215,910,000 metric tons CO2
191,860,000 metric tons CO2
China Power Investment Corp
167,630,000 metric tons CO2
145,140,000 metric tons CO2
American Electric Power Co Inc
128,620,000 metric tons CO2
120,280,000 metric tons CO2
A list of top emitting companies is available for download, or create a custom list using the Dig Deeper tool.
New in CARMA v3.0 are complete data on the location and electricity production of nuclear power plants worldwide. This information reveals that the Yonggwang and Ulchin plants in South Korea led all nuclear power plants in electricity generation, each producing over 48 million MWh. Japan's Fukushima Daini plant, severely damaged by a tsunami in early 2011, ranked seventh in the world in 2009 (list of the top nuclear power plants in the world).
Among the many changes to CARMA is a significant improvement in the scope and quality of geographic information, making it the leading data source for geocoding of power plants. China's Shanxi, Jiangsu, and Hebei provinces – as well as Texas in the US – led all states and provinces worldwide in power plant CO2 emissions, each producing about 250 million metric tons in 2009.
Within the US, even more detailed geographic regions are available. Power plants in the Chicago-Naperville-Michigan metro area produced over 52 million tons of CO2, making it the leading emitter among US metro areas (list of leading CO2 emitters by US metro areas).
Of the top 25 emitting Congressional Districts in 2009, 22 are currently held by Republicans.
Despite all the attention to renewables, globally the carbon intensity of electricity—the amount of CO2 generated per unit of power—declined just 1.7% between 2004 and 2009 (from 590 kg/MWh to 580 kg/MWh). This small improvement was swamped by a more than 15% increase in total electricity consumption over the same period. Overall, global carbon emissions from electricity generation grew by 13.6% between 2004 and 2009.
Developed (high-income) countries saw emissions decline by 3% as declining carbon intensity (-5.5%) outpaced growth in electricity consumption (2.7%). Among the countries with declining emissions from power generation were the United States, Germany, United Kingdom and Italy.
In the developing world, a very small decline in carbon intensity (-1.3%) paled in comparison to a 34% increase in consumption, leading to a nearly 33% increase in power sector CO2 emissions between 2004 and 2009.
“Researchers around the world are already using CARMA in interesting and unexpected ways: whether modeling the movement of carbon in the atmosphere, assessing the effect of coal fly ash on crop yields in China, or understanding how mercury moves through Arctic ecosystems,” says CARMA project manager Kevin Ummel, who helped to develop the original database and undertook the recent update.
Ummel notes that CARMA’s geospatial features could also be used as a starting point for analysis of the health impacts of conventional pollutants such as mercury and other heavy metals, particulate matter, SO2, and NOx that are emitted by fossil-fuel burning power plants, for example, by comparing locations of high-emissions plants with downwind disease clusters.
“With some additional work, CARMA can enable better understanding of the sources and consequences of these pollutants and help local communities organize to protect their health,” he said.
CARMA's extensive geographic data also allow spatial patterns to be analyzed in ways that were not previously possible. Below are maps showing the distribution of power plants in the US, China, and India for 2009. The icons reveal the fuel type, electricity generation, and carbon intensity for thousands of power plants. They show how different types of power plants tend to cluster in particular regions, revealing where new renewable power technologies are penetrating most quickly and, perhaps, explaining why adoption of new technologies is slow or impossible in places dominated by large fossil fuel power plants.
High–resolution PDF versions of the CARMA maps are available on the CARMA website. Lists of top emitting plants, companies, and geographical areas are also available for download, and CARMA’s Dig Deeper tool can be used to create customized lists.
Notes for Editors:
*Members of the media interested in speaking with Kevin Ummel should contact media relations associate Catherine An at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact her by phone at (202) 416-4040.
The Center for Global Development: CGD works to reduce global poverty and inequality through rigorous research and active engagement with the policy community to make the world a more prosperous, just, and safe place for all people. As a nimble, independent, nonpartisan, and nonprofit think tank, focused on improving the policies and practices of the rich and powerful, the Center combines world-class scholarly research with policy analysis and innovative outreach and communications to turn ideas into action.