Each Country's Share of CO2 Emissions

Published Jul 16, 2008 Updated Jul 12, 2023

The wealthy nations of the world are responsible for most carbon emissions.

Cumulative carbon dioxide emissions are the dominant driver of climate change. These began rising during the Industrial Revolution (especially after 1850)—which means richer countries like the United States, which made an early transition to a heavily fossil fuel-based economic system, have an outsized role in contributing to the climate impacts we see around the world today.

Both in terms of cumulative emissions, and current per capita emissions, richer countries rank high. Conversely, low- and middle-income countries have lower cumulative historical emissions and per capita emissions. Even within countries, it is the relatively rich that are most responsible for a majority of carbon emissions.

A graph of the top CO2 emitting countries from 1750 to 2021.
Rank Country CO2 emissions (total)
1 United States 421,907MT
2 China 249,353MT
3 Russia 117,548MT
4 Germany 93,291MT
5 United Kingdom 78,509MT
6 Japan 65,711MT
7 India 57,105MT
8 France 39,106MT
9 Canada 34,115MT
10 Ukraine 30,785MT
11 Poland 28,196MT
12 Italy 25,065MT
13 South Africa 21,465MT
14 Mexico 20,588MT
15 Iran 19,547M
Cumulative emissions from 1750-2020. From fossil fuels and cement only. MT = Metric megatons

The rankings above change when we account for the population of each country (ie, per capita emissions), or when we change the timeframe.

A pie chart of the top annual CO2 emitting countries in 2020.
Rank Country CO2 emissions (total)
1 China 10.04GT
2 United States 4.32GT
3 India 2.34GT
4 Russian Federation 1.56GT
5 Japan 1.00T
6 Germany 0.60GT
7 Indonesia 0.58GT
8 Islamic Republic of Iran 0.58GT
9 South Korea 0.55GT
10 Canada 0.52GT
11 Saudi Arabia 0.50GT
12 Brazil 0.39GT
13 South Africa 0.39GT
14 Australia 0.38GT
15 Turkey 0.37GT
16 Mexico 0.36GT
17 United Kingdom 0.31GT
18 Vietnam 0.29GT
19 Italy 0.28GT
20 Poland 0.28GT
21 France 0.27GT
All emissions from 2020. Fuel combustion only. GT = Metric gigatons

The picture that emerges from these figures is one where—in general—developed countries and major emerging economy nations lead in total carbon dioxide emissions.

However, developed nations typically have high carbon dioxide emissions per capita, while some developing countries lead in the growth rate of carbon dioxide emissions. These uneven contributions to the climate crisis are at the core of the challenges the world community faces in finding effective and equitable solutions to global warming.

2019 rankings by per capita emissions

A bar graph of the top CO2 emitting countries per capita in 2020.
Rank Country CO2 emissions (total)
1 Qatar 29.2T
2 Brunei Darussalam 21.05T
3 Kuwait 20.96T
4 Gibraltar 18.95T
5 Bahrain 18.87T
6 United Arab Emirates 18.28T
7 Australia 14.57T
8 Saudi Arabia 13.89T
9 Canada 13.36T
10 Curaçao 13T
11 United States 12.9T
12 Oman 12.56T
13 Luxembourg 11.81T
14 Kazakhstan 10.9T
15 Russian Federation 10.77T
All emissions from 2020. Fuel combustion only. T = Metric tons

Related resources