Who are the dirtiest and why
Basket of eggs - photo credit - Annie Spratt, http://unslpash.io
Welcome to the fifteenth edition of my weekly blog where I take a closer look at the policies adopted by individual countries in their efforts to meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement. Particular attention is paid to the role that Carbon Capture, Utilisation, and Storage (CCUS) research and technologies are playing in the drive to meet these requirements.
This week, I look at the twelve largest emitting nations of CO2 into the atmosphere, to analyse what trends emerge and also to see if there is anything unique to a particular territory. So who are ‘The Dirty Dozen’? They are the emerging global economies known as the ‘BRIC’ nations: Brazil, Russia, India, and China. They are all of North America: Canada, USA, and Mexico. Moving to Europe, industrial nations Germany and UK make the list. Traveling further East, car manufacturing powerhouses Japan and South Korea also feature in the top 12 along with Indonesia.
The combined CO2 emissions of these 12 countries represent roughly 66% of global CO2 emissions. However, these countries only make up 1/8 (12.3%) of the total landmass of the world. It is no surprise to see Russia, Canada, China, USA, Brazil, and India in this list being six of the seven largest countries in the world. Mexico and Indonesia are also in the top 14 largest countries in the world. Japan and Germany, the fifth and sixth highest emitters of CO2, are the 61st and 62nd largest countries respectively, whereas the United Kingdom and South Korea are the 78th and 107th largest.
CO2 emissions per capita
Based on the World Bank’s most up to date data, the United States is the highest emitter of CO2 per head population at 16.4 metric tonnes followed by Canada, Russia, South Korea, Japan and Germany with 13.5, 12.5, 11.8, 9.7 and 9.4 metric tonnes of CO2 per capita. Given that China is the world’s greatest CO2 emitting nation, its CO2 per capita figure of 7.6 metric tonnes is diluted by its population of 1.3 billion.
Source of the emissions
So what do these six nations have in common? Firstly, at least 80% of each of these countries’ CO2 emissions are generated by their energy sectors. Japan has the highest proportion, their energy sector contributing 92% of their CO2 emissions. Examining the issue in more detail, at least 80% of the energy consumed by these countries is sourced from fossil fuels.
Furthermore, at least 58% of emissions in the energy sector of each of these countries comes from two subsections, the energy industry, and transport, both of which are also heavily dependent on fossil fuels. Considering the reliance on fossil fuels, it’s easy to understand how these countries contribute so much to our GhG problem.
If you could persuade these 12 nations to generate energy from renewable sources and power their transport in the same way (i.e. wind and solar energy), CO2 emissions would fall by up to 30% globally and by up to 45% for these 12 countries combined. This would clearly have a significant impact globally. Additionally, if Brazil and Indonesia could be convinced to put a stop to deforestation, this would also greatly boost the charge towards reducing CO2 emissions.
So in summary, a switch from fossil fuels to renewables to generate electricity and fuel transport in these big player nations would have a major impact on reducing CO2 emissions and meeting Paris Agreement targets. Like most things in life, we already know what we need to do, it’s the doing that is the hard part.
Next week’s blog will profile Australia and their efforts to meet their CO2 emissions reduction targets.