This is the start of a monthly series on global carbon emissions and a review of the countries with the biggest emissions and whether they are delivering on their promises of the Paris Agreement.
What is the Paris Agreement and Carbon Emission Targets?
In 2015, 196 countries signed a pledge to combat global warming by significantly reducing their country’s carbon emissions and overhauling the biggest culprits of greenhouse gas emissions, such as burning fossil fuels for heat and electricity, transportation and manufacturing. Together they agreed to help limit the global average temperature to “well below 2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5° Celsius.”
Four years later, the period of 2015 – 2019 is being recorded as the warmest five-year period on record, according to a new report from the United Nations Climate Action Summit. In fact, “energy consumption worldwide grew by 2.3% in 2018, nearly twice the average rate of growth since 2010, driven by a robust global economy as well as higher heating and cooling needs in some parts of the world.” According to BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy, “carbon emissions grew by 2.0% in 2018. The fastest growth in seven years.” And 2019 is set to see an increase as well.
So which countries release the most carbon emissions? According to the International Energy Agency, China, India, and the US “accounted for 85% of the net increase in emissions in 2018,” with Russia and Japan completing the top five.
Here are the top 10 for 2017.
However, it should be noted that this does not accurately reflect the situation as it does not take in account the per capita of each country or the current policies taken by these governments.
Climate Action Tracker (CAT) tracks the pledges and progress of countries all participating in the Paris Agreement. On its scale from Role Model to to Critically Insufficient, India is in fact classified as 2°C compatible. China is classified as Highly Insufficient. Meaning their actions will ensure a global warming of approximately 4°C, should they continue as such. And the US and Russia are defined as Critically Insufficient, meaning if all governments followed their actions, global warming would increase beyond 4°C.
Looking first at India, despite its high carbon emissions, its per capita emission in 2017 was 1.84, in comparison to the US’ 16.48. Additionally, it has invested largely in renewable energy and has set a 2030 goal of ensuring that 40% of its power is produced through renewable energy. However, despite being on track to achieve this and possibly a decade early, CAT believes that India could double down its efforts to ensure its National Energy Plan “could be 1.5°C compatible, if the country abandoned plans to build a new coal-fired power plant.”
Although China is currently the largest manufacturer of solar technology globally and despite the fact that the Chinese people purchased 1.1 million electric vehicles last year, its carbon emissions still grew by approximately 2.3% in 2018. The country continues to be the largest consumer of coal and invests heavily in coal-fired power stations. While China is technically on track to reach its Paris Agreement goals, this is simply because its targets were largely too low for the reality of its emissions. It is estimated that the country’s “greenhouse gas emissions are projected to rise until at least 2030, although a recent study concluded they may in fact peak a decade earlier.”
Unfortunately for the US, due to a president who doesn’t believe in climate change and his desire to pull the country from the Paris Agreement in 2020, the US as a nation has slipped backwards in its progress towards reducing its emissions. According the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI), the US is ranked at 59, just one place above Saudi Arabia. While President Trump’s policy changes have opened the door for increased carbon emissions and regressions in climate change policies, there are campaigns within individual states to reach new targets to reduce their emissions. Movements within the US makes it one to watch with an impending presidential election next year.
Three other countries to watch are Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. While the latter two are not in the top five of highest carbon emitters, they are all classified by CAT as Critically Insufficient and as per 2017, were in the top fifteen of highest carbon emitters per capita. Although Russia has finally ratified the Paris Agreement, the policies of these three countries, with regards renewable energy and emission reduction targets, will be closely watched as the world moves towards more significant changes in climate action.
In this monthly series, we will report on other important metrics such as “carbon emissions per capita,” “net growth (or decline) of emissions per country,” “net growth (or decline) of emissions per capita,” the “carbon budget per country” (within the scope of the Paris Agreement), and whether these countries are achieving their targets in order to reach the agreed 1.5° Celsius target.
We don’t currently have all these (and other) interesting metrics, but we’re working hard to source those numbers and intend, with each monthly update, to bring needed transparency to this very important topic. Drop us a line with ideas if you know of any good sources for up to date data.
Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.
Our Latest EVObsession Video
CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.