Emissions of carbon dioxide rose by 1.4 per cent in 2012 to a record high of 31.6 billion tonnes, the International Energy Agency said yesterday with the release of its annual World Energy Outlook report.

The United States, typically the highest emitter, posted its lowest emissions since he mid-1990s. China now accounts for the largest emissions growth, up 300 million tonnes last year, or 3.8 per cent, from 2011.

The energy sector accounts for about two-thirds of global emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, the IEA said.

“Climate change has quite frankly slipped to the back burner of policy priorities. But the problem is not going away – quite the opposite,” IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said at the report launch.

The report points to ways of curbing emissions by 2020 namely by improving energy efficiency in buildings industry and transport, limiting the use of coal-fired power plants, halving the oil and gas industry’s release of methane, and phasing out fossil fuel subsidies.