By Vera Eckert
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Top emitters China and the United States are underspending on carbon-free technology relative to their level of emissions, according to a spending model devised by German research institute IWR.
The private institute, which advises German ministries on ways to curb climate-harming carbon output, has suggested countries be given an annual spending target on renewables relative to their fossil fuels consumption.
China invested 70 billion euros ($93.68 billion) in renewables in 2012, nearly doubling its 2011 tally of 37.7 billion. The United States spent 25 billion euros last year, down from 33.7 billion in 2011, IWR data showed.
Yet under its spending model, called CERINA (CO2-emissions and Renewable Investment Action Plan), China ought to be spending 145.6 billion euros and the U.S. target would be 92.8 billion.
"Both countries could still increase their green spending efforts in order to help rein in the rise in CO2 emissions," said IWR director Norbert Allnoch.
"If they raised their investments in carbon-free technologies, one interim goal could be at least a stabilization of CO2 output at the global level," he said.
Other big polluters India, Russia and Japan also sharply lag in spending under CERINA while Germany, the sixth largest emitter, which invested 19.5 billion euros last year, is spending a third more than its target.
China was the top emitter of CO2 in 2012, IWR data showed, at 9.1 billion tons, up 2.2 percent year on year.
The United States was second at 5.8 billion tons, down 3.3 percent on the year helped by a shale gas boom that is reducing U.S. demand for carbon-intense coal.
IWR's data broadly tally with data issued by the International Energy Agency in June.
Allnoch said progress in the United States and increased use of renewable energy had helped slow the growth of worldwide CO2 levels, which nonetheless hit a record high 34.43 billion tons last year, up 1.3 percent from 2011.
"But where would we be if we didn't have those mitigating factors?," Allnoch asked.
Allnoch said the CERINA model was based on a belief that trying to enforce stricter CO2 caps would not succeed.
"We need a change of mindset. Nobody likes to be penalized, whereas if there were incentives for green investments, it would be a different matter," he said.
Almost 200 governments are set to meet in Warsaw from November 11-22 for United Nations climate negotiations.
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(Reporting by Vera Eckert; editing by Alister Doyle and Jason Neely)