Following the historic agreement in Paris on December 12, countries around the world need to turn their climate pledges into action.

The deal calls for average global temperatures to be kept “well below” 2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels and a target of restricting any rise to 1.5°C. Achieving this will require significant reductions in global emissions – so which countries have the most work to do?

There are a number of ways to calculate carbon emissions. Each method reveals a varied global picture, highlighting the complexity of the challenge.

Per capita emissions

1512B28-per capita CO2 emissions 2014 economist world map

Source: The Economist

The first map shows the emissions, in tonnes of CO2 per person, emitted in 2014. It shows that many parts of Africa, South-East Asia and Latin America have low emissions per capita. At the other end of the scale, emissions per capita are high in North America, parts of the Middle East, and Australia. The map also highlights the challenge faced by Europe, Russia and large parts of Asia.

Per unit of GDP emissions

1512B28-carbon emission per unit of GDP 2014 economist world map

Based on emissions per unit of GDP, a different picture emerges. Across Europe, scores appear much lower than on the map of emissions per capita.

Total Emissions

1512B28-total carbon emission world map economist

This map of total CO2 emissions reveals yet another picture – China jumps out as the world’s biggest emitter. In terms of total emissions, China, along with the US, appear to have the most work to do to meet the targets of the Paris deal. However, leaders of both nations have acknowledged the challenges ahead and reaffirmed their commitment to tackling climate change in the wake of the agreement.

At the other end of the scale, most of Africa has low emissions overall, while Scandinavian countries stand out as the lowest emitters among developed nations.

There is no clear answer to the question of which countries have the most work to do, just another reminder that climate change is ultimately a global challenge.

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Author: Joe Myers is a Digital Content Producer at Formative Content. 

Image: Smoke bellows from the chimneys of Belchatow Power Station, Europe’s largest biggest coal-fired power plant. REUTERS/Peter Andrews.