Joint Research Centre - European Commission

The European Commission's in-house science service
European Commission

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Economic growth in China has led to significant increases in fossil fuel consumption © stock.xchng (frédéric dupont, patator)

Per capita CO2 emissions in China reach EU levels


Global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) – the main cause of global warming – increased by 3% last year. In China, the world’s most populous country, average emissions of CO2 increased by 9% to 7.2 tonnes per capita, bringing China within the range of 6 to 19 tonnes per capita emissions of the major industrialised countries.

In the European Union, CO2 emissions dropped by 3% to 7.5 tonnes per capita. The United States remain one of the largest emitters of CO2, with 17.3 tonnes per capita, despite a decline due to the recession in 2008-2009, high oil prices and an increased share of natural gas.

According to the annual report ‘Trends in global CO2 emissions’, released today by the JRC and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), the top emitters contributing to the global 34 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2011 are: China (29%), the United States (16%), the European Union (11%), India (6%), the Russian Federation (5%) and Japan (4%).

With 3%, the 2011 increase in global CO2 emissions is above the past decade's average annual increase of 2.7%.

An estimated cumulative global total of 420 billion tonnes of CO2 has been emitted between 2000 and 2011 due to human activities, including deforestation. Scientific literature suggests that limiting the rise in average global temperature to 2°C above pre-industrial levels – the target internationally adopted in UN climate negotiations – is possible only if cumulative CO2 emissions in the period 2000–2050 do not exceed 1 000 to 1 500 billion tonnes. If the current global trend of increasing CO2 emissions continues, cumulative emissions will surpass this limit within the next two decades