Special Report

This City Emits the Most Carbon Dioxide in the World

Source: Jolanta Dyr / Wikimedia Commons

40. Warsaw, Poland
> Total emissions in 2014: 11.72 million tons of CO2 equivalent
> Transport, industrial, waste, and local power plants: 7.93 million tons of CO2 equivalent — #32 most in study
> Grid-supplied energy produced outside the city boundary: 3.79 million tons of CO2 equivalent — #42 most in study
> Population in 2014: 1.7 million

Poland is the only country in the European Union that failed to endorse the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 when the bloc set the goal in 2019. This was because of the degree to which Poland’s economy and energy consumption is tied to coal production, which supplies 75% of the country’s energy. This past April, however, its president told the participants at the White House virtual summit that Poland was committed to creating a zero emission system in the next twenty years. Critics point out that the promise runs counter to Poland’s energy strategy, which is to reduce reliance on, but not eliminate, coal.

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39. Bogotá, Colombia
> Total emissions in 2015: 12.36 million tons of CO2 equivalent
> Transport, industrial, waste, and local power plants: 10.68 million tons of CO2 equivalent — #25 most in study
> Grid-supplied energy produced outside the city boundary: 1.09 million tons of CO2 equivalent — #75 most in study
> Population in 2015: 7.8 million

Bogota is one of about 100 cities around the world that have come together as the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group network, committed to spurring action on clean energy and climate adaptation. As most of Bogotá’s carbon output is from the transportation sector, the city is focusing on improving bike and pedestrian travel, employing electric buses, and building electric cable cars to service some of its poorest citizens living in its hills.

Source: Sami99tr / Wikimedia Commons

38. Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee, USA
> Total emissions in 2014: 12.48 million tons of CO2 equivalent
> Transport, industrial, waste, and local power plants: 6.68 million tons of CO2 equivalent — #38 most in study
> Grid-supplied energy produced outside the city boundary: 5.80 million tons of CO2 equivalent — #30 most in study
> Population in 2014: 670,000

Nashville’s mayor, John Cooper, who came into office only two years ago, has already put together a climate change and sustainability plan and has begun acting on it, by, for example,

strengthening green building standards, purchasing zero emission vehicles for city use, and reaching an agreement with the local power company to provide significantly more solar power.

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37. Nagoya, Japan
> Total emissions in 2013: 13.42 million tons of CO2 equivalent
> Transport, industrial, waste, and local power plants: 7.69 million tons of CO2 equivalent — #34 most in study
> Grid-supplied energy produced outside the city boundary: 5.73 million tons of CO2 equivalent — #31 most in study
> Population in 2013: 2.1 million

In October of 2020 Japan became one of 130 countries that have set or are considering setting a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. However, perhaps more than most of the other countries in the group, Japan faces unique challenges in replacing fossil fuels with renewables; its deep ocean waters and mountainous terrain discourage wind and solar installations.

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36. Austin, Texas, USA
> Total emissions in 2013: 13.70 million tons of CO2 equivalent
> Transport, industrial, waste, and local power plants: 6.44 million tons of CO2 equivalent — #40 most in study
> Grid-supplied energy produced outside the city boundary: 7.26 million tons of CO2 equivalent — #24 most in study
> Population in 2013: 837,000

Noting that Austin is already experiencing climate impacts in the form of floods, wildfires, extreme heat, and even winter storms, the City Council has recently tightened its emission reduction goals. A draft Climate Equity Plan proposes steep reductions in the coming years through increased housing density (to reduce automobile miles), green building standards, and a transition to eclectic transportation.

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