Special Report

The 20 Countries Responsible for Nearly All Global Emissions

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20. Poland
> GHG emissions, 2019: 295.04 million metric tons of CO2 eq
> Pct. of world GHG emissions: 0.78%
> Pct. of CO2 emissions 2020: 0.86% — #19 of 145 countries
> Population, 2020: 37.95 million
> Pct. of world population: 0.49%

Struggling with its economy and Covid-19, Poland is the only country in the European Union that has not signed onto a pledge to reach net zero GHG emissions by 2050. Instead, it has set a shorter term goal of reducing emissions by 30% by 2030. Historically, Poland has relied on coal for energy, and with coal being a national resource, there is a reluctance to give up coal plants. Still, the country is moving on plans to invest in nuclear energy and wind power in pursuit of its climate goals.

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19. Vietnam
> GHG emissions, 2019: 299.55 million metric tons of CO2 eq
> Pct. of world GHG emissions: 0.80%
> Pct. of CO2 emissions 2020: 0.73% — #25 of 145 countries
> Population, 2020: 97.34 million
> Pct. of world population: 1.25%

Along with dozens of countries around the world, Vietnam has pledged to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, with a 2030 goal of reducing coal dependence by doubling its renewable energy generation. Speaking last November at the U.N.’s climate conference in Glasgow, Vietnamese prime minister Pham Minh Chinh called on more developed nations to provide financial and technological assistance and the expertise needed for his country to meet its goals.

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18. France
> GHG emissions, 2019: 302.61 million metric tons of CO2 eq
> Pct. of world GHG emissions: 0.80%
> Pct. of CO2 emissions 2020: 0.79% — #21 of 145 countries
> Population, 2020: 67.39 million
> Pct. of world population: 0.87%

In step with most of the rest of the European Union, France has signed onto a net zero emissions goal for 2050, and is increasing its efforts to shrink its carbon footprint. Like most of the world, however, it has failed miserably in meeting previous climate goals. France’s failure to meet its Paris accord commitments from 2015 inspired a lawsuit by four NGOs that resulted in a court order giving the French government until the end of 2022 to “repair the damage” for excess emissions between 2015 and 2018..

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17. Italy
> GHG emissions, 2019: 319.96 million metric tons of CO2 eq
> Pct. of world GHG emissions: 0.85%
> Pct. of CO2 emissions 2020: 0.87% — #18 of 145 countries
> Population, 2020: 59.55 million
> Pct. of world population: 0.77%

Italy has beaten EU averages by lowering emissions in all sectors since 2005, the largest in energy (42%) and manufacturing and construction (47%). Coal replacement, significant progress in energy efficiency, and expansion of clean transportation programs are supplemented by policies that have increased Italy’s forest cover, which has grown to over 31% of the country’s surface area, functioning as a carbon sink.

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16. United Kingdom
> GHG emissions, 2019: 354.33 million metric tons of CO2 eq
> Pct. of world GHG emissions: 0.94%
> Pct. of CO2 emissions 2020: 0.95% — #17 of 145 countries
> Population, 2020: 67.22 million
> Pct. of world population: 0.87%

The UK has reduced its carbon emissions by an impressive 49% from 1990 levels, and, as was true elsewhere, this number was greatly enhanced by the pandemic, with emissions dropping by 11% in 2020 alone. Unfortunately, Covid-19’s gift to the climate is fast disappearing around the world as emissions bounce back to near pre-pandemic numbers.

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