PARIS (Reuters) - China spurred a jump in global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to their highest ever recorded level in 2011, offsetting falls in the United States and Europe, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Thursday.
CO2 emissions rose by 3.2 percent last year to 31.6 gigatonnes, preliminary estimates from the Paris-based IEA showed.
China, the world's biggest emitter of CO2, made the largest contribution to the global rise, its emissions increasing by 9.3 percent, the body said, driven mainly by higher coal use.
"The new data provide further evidence that the door to a two degrees Celsius trajectory is about to close," Fatih Birol, IEA's chief economist said in a statement posted on its website.
Scientists say ensuring global average temperatures this century do not rise more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is needed to limit devastating climate effects like crop failure and melting glaciers.
They believe that is only possible if emission levels are kept to around 44 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2020.
Negotiators from over 180 nations are meeting in Bonn, Germany, until Friday to work towards getting a new global climate pact signed by 2015.
The aim is to ensure ambitious emissions cuts are made after the Kyoto Protocol expires at the end of this year.
Procedural wrangling and a reluctance to raise ambitions to cut emissions due to economic constraints is threatening progress, however.
China's CO2 emissions per unit of GDP, or its carbon intensity, fell by 15 percent between 2005 and 2011, the IEA said, suggesting the world's second-largest economy was finding less carbon-consuming ways to fuel growth.
"What China has done over such a short period of time to improve energy efficiency and deploy clean energy is already paying major dividends," Birol said.
In the United States, a switch to natural gas from coal in power plants, a slower economy and a mild winter helped cut emissions by 1.7 percent.
In Europe, a relatively warm winter combined with sluggish growth helped cut emissions by 1.9 percent.
(Reporting by Michel Rose; editing by Jason Neely)