Last week's climate question looked at the development of global CO2 emissions, which are starting to level off (but not yet falling). At NUjij a reader then asked the question: "What is the average emission per person and what are the differences per country?"
Heleen de Coninck gives an answer. She studies international climate policy at the Radboud University in Nijmegen. An average person on earth emits around 4.4 tonnes of CO2 on an annual basis, says De Coninck, who refers to the International Energy Agency (IEA) for the figures. These are only the emissions from energy and industry, not from land use and not from greenhouse gases other than CO2, she adds.
Generally speaking, per capita emissions are much higher in rich countries than in poor countries. An average inhabitant of the 36 richest countries emits twice as much as the world average: 8.9 tonnes per year.
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Dutch people emit more CO2 than Noor
A Dutchman is just over 9 tons there. An average Norwegian emits 6.6 tons, comparable to a resident of China. "While Norway is much more prosperous than China. The difference is that electricity and home heating in Norway comes from hydropower and in China mostly from coal."
Also striking: emissions per capita have fallen slightly on average in rich countries over the past 40 years, while those from poor countries have risen. "The decline in rich countries is mainly because we use energy more efficiently and because coal and lignite have been replaced by natural gas. The increase in poor countries is due to strong economic growth," says De Coninck.
But the mutual differences are great in that group. Countries such as China have undergone rapid growth. "That has released hundreds of millions of people from poverty, but quadrupled emissions per inhabitant. In 1986, this was 1.6 tonnes of CO2 per capita in China, just as much as India today."
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Resident of Qatar has the world's highest emissions
According to De Coninck, Qatar takes the lead: on an annual basis, the country emits more than 30 tons of CO2 per capita. Cause: the oil and gas industry in the Gulf state. But is that also the emission of the inhabitants? The numbers are getting trickier there.
"The 'energy-related emissions per capita' as the emissions per capita are indicated, are the domestic CO2 emissions divided by the number of inhabitants. That is not always representative of the level of consumption of inhabitants," says the climate scientist.
"For example, the emissions of imported items that you buy are not counted. If your electronics come from South Korea and your clothing from Bangladesh, the emissions from that production are attributed to the people of South Korea and Bangladesh."
The CO2 emissions from international aviation and shipping are also not included in the figures: approximately 0.17 tons per world citizen per year. "But there the individual differences are very large. Most people don't fly or very little."
Africa finally? On average less than 1 tonne of CO2 per year, says De Coninck. "A resident of Ethiopia emits only 0.16 CO2 per year. That is 1 percent of emissions from an Australian or American. The differences between countries are therefore huge."
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