October 5, 2021

Top Five Carbon Emitters by Country

Top Five Carbon Emitters by Country

The race to net zero is on and although some countries strive for a positive outcome, many haven't strategized or put in place policies to get them there. It's an effort for nations, companies, and individuals to pull together and tackle the problem together. In this article, we'll talk about types of emitters and information about countries with the highest emissions.

Types of carbon emitters

Different carbon emitters by economic sector vary a lot regionally because of the resources and needs of each country. Globally, CO2 makes up 76% of GHG emissions. By economic sector, the percentages of GHG emitters globally are:

Gloabal GHG emissions by economic sector

Harm and consequences

Global warming has affected climate change to the point where entire ecosystems are dying, there is massive flooding in unprepared places, and we're experiencing climate emergencies at random. The air quality of certain regions is so bad that it causes respiratory infections in widespread populations. When there is an imbalance in elements in the atmosphere and that reflects into oceans, forests, etc., it disrupts the entire planet. Although carbon emissions are not the only reason there are so many problems, it is the main topic of 2021 because it is such a large part of the problem.

Top countries emitting carbon dioxide

The top five countries that emit carbon dioxide are China, the United States, India, Japan, and Russia. Since the earth is everyone's property, what one country does affects another so we have to be very careful about how we manage our own space.

percentage of carbon dioxide emissions by country

In 2018 the top five emitters per capita were Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Australia, the United States, and Canada.


China was at 10.175 billion metric tons in 2019 as 58% of their energy comes from coal burning. Between their industrial and power plants that burn carbon rich coal and their imports of oil for motor vehicles that pollute the atmosphere, they are by far the worst emitter and still haven't peaked. They even double the amount of the United States, the second worst emitter. They are the last in line for net zero, only agreeing to plan for carbon neutrality in the year of 2060 and their strategies to achieve it are neither transparent nor convincing. Although they have a goal to peak by 2030 and a 140 page document that explains how they will curve it, the details still are not transparent and the statistics do not seem likely to be achievable.

The United States

In the United States, their missions primarily come from transportation, industry and power. They emitted 5.285 billion metric tons of CO2 in 2019. The chemical sector also produces products from raw materials which is a big emitter. They are also large producers of crude oil. Since they mostly rely on individual transportation, wasting gas and oil, instead of public transportation, and they are big on importing for consumers and other manufactured materials outside of the country, the US is the second-highest emitter. The good news is that they have decreased emissions and have strategies, awareness, and willingness to carry out the strategies.

According to Climate Action Tracker, the USA is far from sufficient in achieving their targets to combat the problem:

us climate action tracker net zero chart
Image Source: Climate Action Tracker


India is the third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide at 2.616 billion metric tons in 2019 which has doubled since 2009 due to industrialization and their consumption of solid fuels and coal. Coal being used for electricity rose between 68% in 1992 to 75% in 2015 because it is cheaper than importing gas.

While India has pledged to no agreements and has not strategized a net zero future, they continue to criticize the first world for their per capita emitters. This is an individual and collective issue and without having a strategy in place, criticizing other emitters will not get to carbon neutrality, especially when their own country has increased at the highest rate by a landslide compared to any other country.


Russia is the 4th largest emitter of GHGs with 1.678 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2019. They have the largest supply of natural gas mostly used in the power sector but still use coal for material industries. Both emit CO2 although natural gas emits less.

They have not set a net zero target although many nations are urging them to join in the race to net zero. Reuters reports, "The ambassadors urged Russia to "seize this opportunity" to develop renewable energy, green technologies and protect carbon-consuming forests, to help boost its economy and create jobs in low-carbon sectors. Russia is a major producer of oil and gas, fossil fuels that when combusted produce the greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change."


Japan emitted 1.107 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2019 which decreased from the previous year. They are the fifth highest emitter, using coal and natural gas for electricity for individuals and industries. After the Fukushima disaster in 2011, they had increased their burning of fossil fuels. They plan on reopening nuclear power reactors to generate power once again instead of importing it, which should decrease their dependency on fossil fuels in the future. However, after the last nuclear accident that had caused ecosystems to be in jeopardy for centuries, renewable energy from offshore wind projects and solar power would be better than nuclear power which causes problems that could make them pay a worse price environmentally and economically than carbon emissions.

While Japan has great potential to develop renewables and has a desire to achieve net zero by 2050, turning investors towards localized renewable energy like offshore wind farms would be a positive shift in their energy mix. They do have plans on using 24% of renewables in the future but with very little wind power (1.7%) despite being an archipelago favorable for offshore projects.

Japan has proposed the following power mix by 2030:

japan's indc
Image Source: Carbon Brief Chart from Japan's INDC

What can we do?

Collectively and individually we can do our best by reducing GHG emissions and calculating what we can't avoid at the moment so that they can be offset. Net0 helps companies track their carbon emissions accurately and gives intuitive insights for future reductions. Companies can easily allow access to vendors and colleagues so data can be input through various personal dashboards, giving a simple responsibility to everyone. Since it's easy to offset with certified projects within the platform there's no need to search for expensive agencies or carbon accountants outside. The faster your company becomes carbon neutral, the easier it will be for your country to achieve carbon neutrality as well. Sign up today and check out the platform to get ahead of laws and policies that are transitioning to these systems to prevent further global warming.

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