By Muriel Boselli
PARIS (Reuters) - Global emissions of carbon dioxide hit their highest level ever in 2010, with the growth driven mainly by booming coal-reliant emerging economies, the International Energy Agency's Chief Economist said on Monday.
Fatih Birol warned that carbon dioxide emissions were coming close to the 2020 target set by the 190-nation Cancun climate change talks, to limit temperature rise to 2 degree celsius.
Birol said that, according to IEA estimates, CO2 emissions rose by 5.9 percent to 30.6 billion tonnes in 2010.
"It's a very strong rebound in CO2 emissions, driven mainly by the non-OECD countries," Birol told Reuters in an interview, adding three quarters of the growth came from emerging economies such as China or India.
"It's the highest ever growth in history," he said.
The Paris-based IEA, which advises its members on energy policy, has also carried out an analysis on the world's power plants which shows that 80 percent of the electricity generation related emissions for 2020 are already locked in.
"The room for manoeuvre is only of 20 percent," he added.
Birol blamed the jump in CO2 emissions on the lack of a climate change agreement and the fact that investors had not been given a clear signal by policy makers to spend money in cleaner-burning technologies.
The Cancun climate change talks which took place at the end of 2010 failed to reach a binding deal extending the Kyoto Protocal for cutting CO2 emissions beyond 2012.
Scientists say rising levels of CO2, the main greenhouse gas from burning fossil fuels and deforestation, is heating up the planet.
"Every year we don't have a (climate change) agreement, every year we don't give a clear signal to pave the way for renewable energies and other clean energy technologies, the room for manoeuvre to get to the 2020 target shrinks," he said.
There was also concern that after the Fukushima nuclear diaster in March, many countries, such as Germany, were opting out of nuclear energy which emits virtually no CO2, Birol said.
"The less nuclear growth means higher CO2 emssions compared to what people thought a couple of months ago," he said.
The growth in CO2 emission for 2010 was mainly led by coal, natural gas and oil, Briol added.
The IEA earlier this month urged oil producing countries to boost supply to cut fuel costs to protect economic recovery and appeared to suggest its members could release emergency stockpiles if OPEC did not act at its next meeting on June 8. [ID:nLDE74H0VC]
(Reporting by Muriel Boselli; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)