PARIS, May 25 (UPI) -- Carbon dioxide emissions tied to the burning of fossil fuels reached a record level of 31.6 gigatons last year, the International Energy Agency reports.
Global emissions peaked in 2011 to a level 1 gigaton short of a benchmark needed to limit the increase in the average global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The IEA said CO2 emissions should peak at 32.6 gigatons no later than 2017 to keep warming trends in check.
"The new data provide further evidence that the door to a 2-degree C trajectory is about to close," IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol said in a statement.
The IEA said China made the largest contribution to the global increase in CO2 emissions in 2011, where levels rose by 9.3 percent year-on-year because of higher coal consumption. Carbon intensity, the level of CO2 emitted per unit of gross domestic product, fell substantially, however.
India, meanwhile, passed Russia to become the fourth-largest emitter, passing the European Union, China and the United States.
The IEA said with the rise in the use of natural gas in the United States in place of coal, emissions fell by 1.7 percent.
"U.S. emissions have now fallen by 430 metric tons (7.7 percent) since 2006, the largest reduction of all countries or regions," the IEA stated.