Global CO2 emissions increased by 45% between 1990 and 2010, reaching an all-time high of 33 billion tonnes, according to a new report by the EU's Joint Research Centre (JRC).
The increased use of renewables, nuclear power, and better energy efficiency, have not kept up with the world's growing demand for power and transport, which is strongest in developing countries.
Recession and the collapse of the former Soviet bloc helped industrialised countries to collectively reduce their greenhouse gas emissions over the last two decades, and they are likely to meet the collective Kyoto target of a 5.2 % emissions cut by 2012 as a result.
But continued economic growth in countries such as China and India, coupled with economic recovery in Europe and North America contributed to a record-breaking 5.8% increase in global CO2 emissions between 2009 and 2010.
The figures will give added urgency to the backstage negotiations taking place to try and find a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol at the Durban Climate Change Summit in November and December.
In the EU at least, CO2 emissions remain lower in absolute terms than they were before the 2008 economic crisis, at 4 billion tonnes in 2010, compared to 4.2 billion tonnes in 2007. However most major economies have increased their emissions significantly over the same period.
At present, the USA emits 16.9 tonnes CO2 per capita per year, over twice as much as the EU-27 with 8.1 tonnes. By comparison, Chinese per capita CO2 emissions of 6.8 tonnes are still below the EU-27 average, but now equal to those of Italy.
The figures were published today in the report 'Long-term trend in global CO2 emissions', prepared by the JRC and the Netherlands' PBL Environmental Assessment Agency.
Its data was based on recent results from the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR) and latest statistics for energy use.