China, the United States, the EU and India have produced more than half of CO2 emissions since 2010

Coal-fired power plant in Hejin, central China, November 28, 2019.

The top four polluters – China, the United States, the European Union (counted with the United Kingdom) and India – are responsible for more than half (55%) of global greenhouse gas emissions over the last decade (2010-2019), indicates the United Nations Environment Program. China, which accounts for just over a quarter of the global total, saw its carbon emissions increase by 3.1% in 2019, driven by increased use of coal. However, the very rapid growth of Middle Kingdom emissions in the 2000s has slowed down over the past decade.

India (7% of the world total) has also seen an increase in its emissions but less rapid than before (+ 1.4%), thanks to the development of renewable energies, to an increased use of hydropower due to ‘a record monsoon and due to weakening economic growth.

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Conversely, the United States, the second largest polluter with 13% of global emissions, recorded a slight decrease in their emissions for ten years, and particularly last year (- 1.7%), thanks to the transition from coal to gas and renewables. The same is true for the European Union and the United Kingdom, responsible for 8.6% of global emissions, which managed to reduce their emissions by 3% in 2019.

When compared to the population, the territorial emissions of the United States, with 20 tons per capita, are however three times higher than the world average (6.8 tons), and twice as much as Chinese emissions (9.7 tons) or European (8.6 tonnes). Especially when we include CO emissions2 generated by the production of goods and services that we import, a European pollutes a little more than a Chinese. Containing the warming to 1.5 ° C would mean reducing emissions to between 2 and 2.5 tonnes of CO equivalent2 per capita by 2030.

The vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions come from the combustion of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) for energy consumption (in transport, buildings or agriculture), as well as from industry and cement factories. The rest is mainly related to animal husbandry and waste management, as well as changes in land use, such as deforestation or the artificialization of agricultural land.


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