The fight against climate change becomes more manageable when people have more data. The countries emitting the most carbon pollution can take more responsibility to equal their output.
Read this guide to learn the average carbon footprint by country and discover what each is doing to reduce its pollution.
Chinese officials announced the country would achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 during the Paris Climate Change Conference in 2015. It caught the world’s attention, and the results have been promising. The average carbon footprint for a Chinese citizen was 7.38 tons of CO2 per person in 2016, which grew to 7.6 tons per person in 2019.
Given that the country grew by 19.9 million people between those years, the minimal growth rate of carbon emissions per person is worth noting. The country believes it’ll reach peak carbon emissions in 2030, so the per capita emissions rate will likely decrease after that point.
2. The United States
The average American has a 16-ton carbon footprint, which changes based on their food, transportation, spending and home energy habits. Although that number is much larger than other per capita emissions in comparable countries, the U.S. has decreased its overall emissions almost annually since 2008.
While reading about the average carbon footprint by country, remember that the U.S. recently passed a new climate law. Environmental experts believe it will make the U.S. emit 40% fewer carbon emissions than in 2005 and that the country will reach that bar by 2030. Progress is happening with each passing year.
Research shows the average person in India has a carbon footprint of 1.9 metric tons, an increase from the 2020 rate of 1.73 tons per person. If the country did nothing to reduce its emissions, the per capita rate would reach 2.98 tons by 2030, but the same research shows that the country’s ambitious climate change response plan will limit that number to 2.31 tons per person.
Efforts to reduce the country’s dependence on coal and gas are promising. India plans to reach net zero emissions by 2070 and produce 50% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. In 2016, the country pledged to achieve 34% lower emissions than its 2005 readings and reached that goal nine years early in 2021.
Other progressive efforts like installing solar panels throughout the country and upgrading India’s infrastructure are underway. The average carbon footprint of India and its citizens will likely continue to shrink with the country’s extensive sustainability efforts.
The per capita emissions rate for Russian citizens peaked in 1990 and sank to the current 12.10 tons per person rate from 2021 data. Although the per capita rate has been slowly rising for the last few years, the country is taking steps to curb the rate.
The Transport Strategy of the Russian Federation to 2030 includes details to improve the country’s transportation infrastructure in three phases. Since transportation accounts for 37% of global CO2 emissions, reducing pollution from that sector in one of the world’s biggest countries could significantly help the planet.
Research data from the latest 2021 readings shows that people in Japan emit 8.6 tons of CO2 annually, giving the nation one of the higher rates of average carbon footprint by country. Although they don’t have the highest per capita readings, Japan is leading other countries to a carbon-neutral future at full speed.
Officials announced a plan to become carbon neutral by 2050 with an extensive roadmap explaining each required step. Three principles will guide the program:
- Encouraging innovation to improve current green technology
- Boost the sustainable financial sector to increase funding for innovative research
- Support greater international cooperation to work with other countries to help the planet
The world will continue to watch as Japan approaches its first milestone. It pledged to reduce its emissions rate by 46% from 2013 levels, modeling the milestone after a similar goal set by the United States.
A 2021 Climate Change Transparency report found that the average carbon footprint of people in Germany was 7.5 tons and identified ways to reduce that number. The same report noted that Germany plans to phase out coal usage by 2030 and natural gas by 2035. The company would have a carbon-neutral transportation sector and lower levels for coal-dependent sectors if successful.
Government officials are also taking action to improve their public railway system to make German citizens less dependent on gas-guzzling vehicles. The system will become 75% electric dependent, while 80% of the electric grid will come from renewable energy sources.
When a Berlin research team released a carbon emissions research report in 2021, people learned that Canada is behind other nations in the fight against climate change. The average carbon footprint of Canadian citizens was 14.86 tons that year, resulting in worse per capita pollution than high-emissions countries like the U.S. and Russia.
The research report found that most of the CO2 emissions for individuals came from transportation, pointing toward a greater need for sustainable infrastructure. It also recommended that people average 0.7 tons annually from transportation, which would require extensive sustainable solutions.
A 2020 announcement indicated that Canadian government funding would invest in public transit updates to fund alternative-fuel infrastructure and increase the sale of zero-emission vehicles. A consumer purchase incentive for zero-emission vehicles will also help phase out cars that burn fossil fuels.
Canada could significantly reduce its per capita emissions alongside eco-friendly strategies in other sectors when combined with stricter emissions standards for vehicles relying on traditional fuel.
People in Iran have an average CO2 footprint of 8.43 tons, which concerns environmental leaders. The same research shows that the country’s per capita emissions have risen yearly since 1981. Emission rates per person are lower than in other countries, but the continual increase in per capita pollution could make the country rank first in carbon footprint size per citizen.
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) recently announced a strategic plan to help Iran reduce its annual pollution. Steps will include efforts such as:
- Expanding the country’s recycling programs
- Updating urban planning strategies
- Implementing renewable energy technologies in urban buildings
The country also provides more than 16% of the world’s energy subsidies, with natural gas comprising 33% of that figure and gasoline being another 35%. The UNDP plan references this GDP expenditure and notes that switching to subsidies focused on renewable energy would continue supporting the country’s economy while significantly reducing its reliance on fossil fuels.
Learn the Average Carbon Footprints by Country
Understanding the average carbon footprint by country empowers people who want to help the planet. It points toward countries that need more effective green energy strategies and others that successfully reduce their pollution each year.
By sharing innovative sustainable advancements and strategies, every country can help its citizens have a lesser environmental impact.