Unexpectedly Intriguing!
11 May 2021

China is, by far and away, the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide into the Earth's atmosphere.

That factoid was recently driven home by the Rhodium Group's latest report on the topic, updating their annual data through the 2019 calendar year. The following chart indicates the share of net CO₂ emissions by the world's top emitting countries or regions:

Rhodium Group - Figure 1 - 2019 net GHG emissions from the world's largest emitters

The Rhodium group estimates that China's net carbon emissions exceeded the output of the 34 developed nations that make up the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The chart above represents something of a snapshot in time of the pre-coronavirus pandemic world of 2020, which saw CO₂ emissions fall in many developed countries around the world.

But not in China, according to the Rhodium Group's preliminary 2020 estimate:

Based on preliminary energy and economic data, we estimate that China’s GHG emissions increased by 1.7% in 2020. While this is well below the 3.3% emissions growth that China averaged over the past decade, it is a worrying sign that the world’s largest GHG emitter’s focus on a fossil-fueled industrial recovery is at odds with its long-term goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2060.

By contrast, the Rhodium Group's preliminary estimates indicate a 10.3% decline in net U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2020, putting the U.S. below its 1990 level of emissions. That figure is consistent with a new year-over-year estimated reduction of 10.4% for just U.S. fossil fuel generated CO₂ emissions during 2020.

Pointing to the link between greenhouse gas emissions and economic growth, China's economy is estimated to have grown by 2.1% while the U.S. economy shrank by 3.5% in real terms from 2019 to 2020.

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