South Africa's Eskom has been ranked as the second-largest power producer in the world – in terms of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. And South Africa is placed eighth overall in a new ranking of countries by CO2 emissions.
These shocking findings have emerged from a new online database – Carbon Monitoring for Action (Carma) – compiled by the Center for Global Development, which measures the CO2 emission of 50 000 power plants worldwide.
The database lays out exactly where the CO2 emitters are and how much of the greenhouse gas they are casting into the atmosphere. It also shows which companies own the plants.
A research team, led by David Wheeler, a senior fellow at CGD, constructed the enormous database to help speed the shift to less carbon-intensive power generation – with the objective of minimising global warming which is and will hurt poor people in developing countries first and worst.
The Carma data is arrayed on a user-friendly website: www.Carma.org.
The database and its website rank individual power plants, plotting their location by latitude and longitude. The data for total power-related emissions can be displayed by cities, states or provinces, and countries.
Rankings of the 4 000 electric power companies in the world show which are the biggest carbon polluters, globally, nationally, and at sub-national levels. Company-level data include emissions and power generation for 2000 and 2007, as well as estimates of future emissions and power generation from planned expansions. Data will be updated regularly as facility ownership changes and new plants come online.
Power generation accounts for about one-quarter of total emissions of CO2, the main culprit in global warming. But, until now, people concerned about climate change lacked information about the emissions of particular power plants and the identities of the companies that own them.
"Carma makes information about power-related CO2 emissions transparent to people throughout the world," says Dr Wheeler. "Information leads to action. We know that this works for other forms of pollution and we believe it can work for greenhouse gas emissions, too."
On a per capita basis, Australians are some of the largest CO2 emitters in the world, producing more than 11 tons of power sector CO2 emissions per person every year. Americans aren’t far behind at more than 9 tons per person. Populous developing nations have far lower per capita emissions. For example, the average Chinese citizen produces 2 tons of CO2 emissions from power generation annually, and Indians emit about half-a-ton per person.
A recent study by William Cline, a joint senior fellow at CGD and the Peterson Institute for International Economics, predicts that agricultural productivity in developing countries will decline sharply by 2080, as crops in areas closer to the equator suffer from the effects of increased heat and drought. Averting such a disaster would require rapid emission reductions in the first half of this century. Carma is intended to help speed the necessary emission reductions.
Globally, power generation emits nearly 10 billion tons of CO2 per year. The US, with more than 8 000 power plants out of the more than 50, 000 worldwide, accounts for about 25% of that total, or 2,8-billion tons.
Although no single country comes close to the US's total, other countries collectively account for three-quarters of the power-related CO2 burden. China comes second after the US with 2.7-billion tons; followed by Russia – 661-million tons; India – 583-million tons; Japan – 400-million tons; Germany – 356-million tons; Australia – 226-million tons; South Africa – 222-million tons; the UK – 212-million tons; and South Korea – 185-million tons.
One surprise in the data is that the biggest emitters of CO2 in the world in absolute terms are located not in the rich world but in rapidly emerging economies with massive coal-fired plants.
Huaneng Power International in China is the biggest culprit with 292-million tons, followed by Eskom at 214-million tons and India's NTPC with 182-million tons. Another two Chinese plants are ahed of the first US plants, which rank at six and siver, followed by a German power producer.