Climate change has been at the heart of debates across various governmental conferences and summits in recent years, all intending to find the correct path towards a greener future. We are in the middle of a climate crisis, with some of the largest and most influential nations around the world accountable for the majority of the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. In one way or another, the effects of climate change threaten all businesses, and business leaders will hope that the pledges put in place will curb the effects. These pledges created under the Paris Agreement have 193 parties involved, who are committed to drastically reducing their carbon emissions. These come in the form of Nationally Determined Contributions which each party to the Paris Agreement is required to establish and update every five years. So, who are the biggest emitters and what targets and policies have they developed?
China has been notorious for being the biggest emitter since 2006, remaining at that number one spot for over 15 years. According to statista, in 2020, China released 10.67 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, making it by far the world’s largest polluter that year. To emphasize how much of an emitter China is, it produces approximately twice the emissions of the world’s second-biggest emitter, the United States.
One of the key reasons why China tops the list due to its heavy reliance on coal. According to the China Power Project, 73% of its CO2 emissions come from this reliance. Compared to other fossil fuels, coal is viewed as one of the dirtiest sources which can produce double the amount of CO2. Despite the gradual decline of China’s use of coal, it is still heavily consumed within the nation’s industrial sector, more specifically in manufacturing, agriculture, and mining.
Additionally, the urbanization of the country has also caused the release of significant amounts of CO2. The production and use of cement and steel when developing infrastructure have been a big factor as to why China is the biggest emitter. But what are their climate pledges?
- Have CO2 emissions peak before 2030.
- Achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.
- Reduce CO2 emissions per unit of GDP by more than 65% from the level in 2005.
- Increase the share of non-fossil energy to approximately 25%.
- Bring its total installed capacity of wind and solar power to over 1.2 billion kilowatts by 2030.
The United States currently stands as the second-biggest emitter, however, historically it has emitted more than any other country in the world. Cumulatively, the United States has emitted nearly twice as much CO2 as China since 1850. Currently, according to the Rhodium Group, In 2019, the U.S. release 5.7 billion metric tonnes of CO2 emissions accounting for 11% of the world’s emissions.
Their emissions mainly come from transportation, industry, and power, with the main source of energy coming in the form of petroleum due to the nation’s heavy use of cars, trucks, trains, aircraft, and ships. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2020, petroleum was the source of 45% of total annual U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions. As a result, the transportation sector emitted the largest amount of CO2.
The industry sector is a large emitter due to the levels of fossil fuels that are burnt. To generate electricity and heat, natural gas accounted for approximately 36% of total annual CO2 emissions, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. So, what steps have the U.S taken to reduce these emissions?
- Reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels