The International Energy Agency has predicted that global carbon dioxide emissions would increase by a staggering 55 per cent between now and 2030, unless “urgent” action was taken by governments and consumers. That is the catastrophic scenario of continuing with “business as usual” depicted in its annual World Economic Outlook.

“On current trends, we are on course for a dirty, expensive and unsustainable energy future,” the IEA’s executive director Claude Mandil said at the report’s launch in London yesterday. “In response, urgent government action is required. The key word is urgent.”

“The world is facing twin energy-related threats: that of not having adequate and secure supplies of energy at affordable prices and that of environmental harm caused by consuming too much of it… the current pattern of energy supply carries the threat of severe and irreversible environmental damage,” the report said.

More than 70 per cent of the increase in demand for oil and other primary energy sources would come from developing countries, with China alone accounting for 30 per cent.

The growing problem of what to do about China’s rapid industrialisation is highlighted in stark terms. At current trends, China will become a bigger emitter of carbon dioxide than the United States by 2010, a decade earlier that other forecasts. China will account for 39 per cent of the increase in carbon dioxide, as its emissions more than double in the period to 2030.

The IEA said that developing countries would account for three-quarters of the increase in global carbon dioxide emissions between now and 2030, passing the OECD group of 26 industrialised countries by around 2012. The overall share of developing countries in world emissions is predicted to rise from 39 per cent at present to 52 per cent by 2030, with other Asian countries, notably India, also contributing heavily to the increase.The IEA said: “This increase [from developing countries] is faster than that of their share in energy demand, because their incremental energy use is more carbon-intensive than that of the OECD and transitional economies. In general, they use more coal and less gas.”

Fatih Birol, chief economist at the IEA, agreed that China should not be blamed for its emissions. He said: “To put a penalty on China would be unfair. After all, coal fuelled the industrial revolution in the UK.”