the Paris Agreement in 2015 was a landmark agreement that committed nations on all continents to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The goal was to limit the increase in average global temperature to less than 2 ° C (3.6 ° F) – and preferably not more than 1.5 ° C (2.7 ° F) – compared to pre-industrial levels. The agreement operates on a five-year cycle and during this period countries are taking steps to reduce their carbon emissions. In 2020, signatory countries submitted climate action plans called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
Even as nations strive to switch to renewables and move away from oil, coal and natural gas, they still need fossil fuels to run their economies. And some remain the biggest producers of CO2 in the world.
To determine the 50 countries with the world’s highest per capita CO2 emissions in 2019, 24/7 Wall St. examined data from some 148 countries from the International Energy Agency. Energy-related GHG emissions 2021 edition report. Countries are ranked by CO2 emissions in metric tons per population. Data on CO2 emissions in 2010 are also given in metric tonnes per capita. Data on CO2 emissions by GDP are expressed in kg of CO2 per GDP in 2015 US dollars, and data on total greenhouse gas emissions from energy are expressed in millions of metric tons of CO2 equivalent. All data comes from IEA.
European and Asian countries dominate the list, although nations from all continents except Antarctica are represented. Even Western European countries such as the Netherlands and Norway, which are seen as leaders in the transition to a sustainable future, still use fossil fuels and have therefore found their place here. (These are the 40 countries that are reducing their emissions the fastest.)
Eastern European countries struggling to recover from the legacy of managed economies that stifled economic progress during the Communist era are using dirty energy sources such as coal to build their economies. Their environments are among the most polluted in Europe due to smoke-spewing factories and older, less efficient diesel-powered vehicles. (Here is 26 countries that consume more energy than they produce.)
Click here to see the 50 countries with the highest CO2 emissions per capita
In Asia, the nations of the Arabian Peninsula like Qatar and Bahrain, among the richest countries in the world per capita, are also among the highest emitters of CO2 because their economies are based on drilling and distributing oil. Four of the five countries with the highest CO2 emissions per capita are in the Arabian Peninsula.