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China becomes top CO2 emitter, overtaking U.S.

June 20, 2007 - The Associated Press

China has overtaken the United States as the world's biggest emitter of carbon dioxide (CO2), a Dutch research institution announced Tuesday.

According to figures released by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, an environmental adviser to the Dutch government and the United Nations, increasing demand for coal to generate electricity and a surge in cement production have pushed China's recorded emissions for 2006 beyond those of the United States.

The agency said China produced 6.2 billion tons of CO2 last year, up 8.4 percent from the previous year, compared with 5.8 billion tons from the United States.

The United States saw a 1.4 percent fall, which analysts say is due to its economic slowdown.

China, whose emissions were 2 percent below those of the United States in 2005, surpassed the country in CO2 emissions by 8 percent in 2006, according to the agency.

But China's pollution remains relatively low per head of population, about a quarter of that in the United States and half that of Britain, which produced 600 million tons of CO2, the agency said.

Analysts said the latest estimates will add to pressure on the world's politicians to reach an agreement on climate change that includes the Chinese economy.

The agency estimated CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning and cement production and omitted sources of other greenhouse gases such as methane from agriculture and nitrous oxide from industrial processes.

The figures also excluded other sources of CO2 such as aviation and shipping as well as deforestation, gas flaring and underground coal fires, it said.

China's emissions had not been expected to overtake those of the United States for several years, although the International Energy Agency, an international energy policy adviser to 26 countries including Japan, the United States and Britain, predicted it may happen in 2007.