Most of the carbon dioxide (CO2) is produced by just four countries – China, the United States, India and Russia – plus the European Union.
Everyone agreed in Paris in 2015 to cut emissions to help limit dangerous increases in global temperatures, but what measures have they taken since?
China: the largest emitter in the world
- It says carbon emissions will peak in 2030
- Aim for 25% energy from non-fossil fuels by 2030
- It promises to be carbon neutral by 2060
China is the largest producer of CO2, responsible for a quarter of all global emissions.
And its carbon emissions are still on the rise, largely due to dependence on coal.
China has not made it clear whether its carbon neutrality will result in reducing emissions or offsetting them by finding other ways to reduce an equivalent amount of CO2.
Last month, President Xi Jinping announced that he would stop funding new coal-fired projects overseas.
But at home, coal mines have been ordered to increase production to meet rising energy demand, although Beijing has promised to reduce coal use by 2026.
China has made progress in renewable energy: it now accounts for more than a third of all global solar energy and is the world’s largest producer of wind energy.
But the country must reduce coal demand by more than 80 percent by 2060 to meet its climate goals, according to the International Energy Agency.
Climate action monitoring, meanwhile, he says that China’s policies and actions are “insufficient” and if each country followed the same path it would lead to a global temperature rise of 3 ° C.
USA: the highest number of issues per person
- It will reduce CO2 by at least 50% of the 2005 level by 2030
- He wants half of the new vehicles to be electric by 2030
- It promises to be carbon neutral by 2050
Over 80% of US energy comes from fossil fuels, although renewable energy sources are on the rise.
President Joe Biden’s environmental plan aims to further expand green energy, with a $ 150 billion (£ 100 billion) clean electricity program to reward utility companies that switch from fossil fuels.
But it has faced opposition from some US lawmakers concerned about the impact on the coal and fracking industry.
CO2 emissions have decreased over the past decade.
But Climate Action Tracker says US actions and policies are “insufficient”, needing “substantial improvements” to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of maintaining a 1.5C increase in global warming.
The European Union: Decreasing emissions
- It promises a 55% reduction in emissions from the 1990 level by 2030
- Aim for 40% of energy from renewable sources by 2030
- It will be carbon neutral by 2050
The main CO2 producers in the EU are Germany, Italy and Poland.
And while it has overall emissions targets, EU states have different financial and technical capabilities.
But all member countries must agree on how to achieve the bloc’s goals, as the EU negotiates as a single entity when it comes to the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26).
Climate Action Tracker says its policies and actions are “nearly enough” to keep global temperature rise below 2 ° C, noting that emissions have declined since 2018.
India: addicted to coal
- Aim for a 33-35% reduction in “emissions intensity” by 2030
- It promises 40% electricity capacity from non-fossil fuels by 2030
- It has not set a date for net zero emissions
India’s annual CO2 emissions have risen steadily over the past two decades, but it produces the lowest per capita emissions of the top five.
India argued that richer and more industrialized nations should bear the burden more, as they have contributed much more to global warming over time.
And it has a target for “emissions intensity” – CO2 per unit of economic growth – saying this is a fairer way to compare with other countries.
India has also promised a significant increase in energy production from non-fossil fuel sources such as wind, solar and hydro power, which reached 23% in 2019.
And Climate Action Tracker says the country must phase out coal-fired power generation before 2040 and raise its non-fossil fuel-derived energy target.
Russia: economy driven by oil and gas
- It will reduce emissions by 30% from 1990 levels by 2030
- It promises to be carbon neutral by 2060
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Russian economy – and its carbon emissions – nonetheless shrank.
But Russia still relies on its vast forests and swamps to absorb carbon.
Wind, solar and hydro power and other non-fossil fuels make up a small part of its total energy mix.
And fossil fuels contribute more than 20% to gross domestic product (GDP), the total value of goods and services produced in Russia.
Climate Action Tracker says the country’s policies and actions are “highly insufficient” to limit global warming to 1.5 ° C.
Reporting and research by Jake Horton, Shruti Menon, Daniele Palumbo and Kai Wang
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