Health and Healthcare Systems

This infographic shows CO2 emissions all around the world

Coal-fired power plants are some of the biggest single sources of global CO2 emissions.

Coal-fired power plants are some of the biggest single sources of global CO2 emissions. Image: REUTERS/David W Cerny

Sean Fleming
Senior Writer, Formative Content
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Decarbonizing Energy

This article is part of: Sustainable Development Impact Summit

With all the conversation around climate change, global CO2 emissions must be starting to fall, right? Well, no actually.

Last year, global greenhouse gas emissions actually rose by 2.1%. That’s despite well-publicised commitments, such as the 2016 Paris Agreement, to keep global temperature rises to a minimum.

And, as the following chart shows, they’ve risen dramatically since the turn of the last century.

Global CO2 emissions by country
Global CO2 emissions by country Image: Nature/Global Carbon Project

Consider China. Despite world-leading investments in renewable energy, its greenhouse gas emissions are still on the rise.

Last year, the superpower was responsible for almost one-third of all the CO2 emitted. China has also recently invested in new coal-fired power stations and, with its current policies, GHG emissions are projected to rise until at least 2030.

The second most-polluting nation, in terms of CO2 emissions globally, is the United States. Responsible for 15% of global emissions, it’s a long way behind China’s 27%.

But the US has the world’s highest per capita CO2 emissions – 16.6 tonnes per person, way ahead of the global average of 4.8 tonnes and China’s 7 tonnes per person.

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It has been gradually reducing those emissions over the last few decades, but the US’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement may undo some of that progress.

Share of EU countries in global CO2 emissions

Together, the 28 member states of the European Union are the third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide - responsible for a combined 9% of global emissions.

  • 20% cut in greenhouse gas emissions compared with 1990
  • 20% of total energy consumption from renewable energy
  • 20% increase in energy efficiency
EU is working towards cutting its share of global carbon dioxide emissions further by adopting green energy resources.
EU is working towards cutting its share of global carbon dioxide emissions further by adopting green energy resources. Image: Nature/Global Carbon Project

By 2050, the EU aims to have slashed its emissions by 80-95% compared to 1990 levels.

The region’s dominant economy, Germany, is a prolific coal user. In 2016, more than 42% of its domestic electricity production came from coal.

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What’s the World Economic Forum doing about climate change?

Global CO2 emissions: a hot topic?

With emissions still on the rise, there’s significant work still needed.

Speaking at the recent UN climate summit in New York, António Guterres, UN secretary-general, urged countries to take urgent, joined-up and decisive action to limit the effects of climate change, saying, “Nature is striking back with fury.”

Greta Thunberg also gave an impassioned speech to world leaders, accusing them of ‘betraying’ young people.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Health and Healthcare SystemsEnergy TransitionSustainable DevelopmentClimate Action
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