Greenhouse Gas Emissions in El Salvador

Overview of greenhouse gases and emissions per capita in El Salvador. Are they prepared to meet net zero targets and invest in the energy transition?
Greenhouse Gas Emissions in El Salvador
Overview of greenhouse gases and emissions per capita in El Salvador. Are they prepared to meet net zero targets and invest in the energy transition?
Greenhouse Gas Emissions in El Salvador
Overview of greenhouse gases and emissions per capita in El Salvador. Are they prepared to meet net zero targets and invest in the energy transition?

What percentage of global greenhouse gas emissions does El Salvador produce?

El Salvador produced 0.03% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2021 (the latest date with complete emissions data). This amounted to 12.3m metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, or MtCO₂e. These emissions represented an increase from 2020 by 9.4%.

In the period from 1990 to 2021 their emissions have increased by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.9% and El Salvador has contributed 0.03% of global greenhouse emissions.

CountryEl Salvador
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in USD$28.7bn
Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 202112.3m
Change in Emissions since 20209.4%
Percentage of Total Emissions (2021)0.03%
Rank – Emitters in 2021133
Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions since 1990352m
Compound Annual Growth – Emissions since 19901.9%
Percentage of Total Emissions (1990-2021)0.03%
GDP Per Capita (USD)$4.41k
Emissions Per Capita1.9

In 2021, El Salvador was the world’s 133rd largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions. The largest emitters in the same period were China, the United States, India, Russia and Brazil.

When looking at emissions over time El Salvador is the 133rd largest emitter since 1990.

Emissions per capita in El Salvador – average household carbon footprint

The population of El Salvador is 6.52m. On a per capita basis, they produce 1.9 tonnes of CO2e per person, placing them 152nd out of 191 on emissions produced per capita. The biggest per capita emitters are Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Turkmenistan.

What is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in El Salvador?


59.6% of emissions in El Salvador came from Carbon Dioxide (CO2), 27.7% came from Methane (CH4), and 9.2% came from Nitrous Oxide (N2O).


The sector that produced the most emissions in 2021 was the energy industry, producing 7.12m of GHG emissions, constituting 57.8% of total.

The second and third largest emitting sectors were agriculture and waste, producing 17.9% and 17.5% of total GHG in El Salvador.


The industry that produced the most energy related emissions was the transportation industry, producing 4.04m of GHG emissions, constituting 32.8% of total emissions.

The second and third largest emitting sectors were manufacturing/construction and building, emitting 1.68m and 714k tonnes of GHG each.

Land Use Change and Forestry

Land use change and forestry (LUCF), such as deforestation and conversion of natural ecosystems to agricultural or urban areas, can have a significant impact on carbon emissions.

  • Trees and other vegetation absorb and store carbon through the process of photosynthesis, and when they are cut down or burned, that stored carbon is released into the atmosphere.
  • Deforestation and other forms of land use change can also reduce the ability of ecosystems to absorb and store carbon in the future. Additionally, the conversion of land for agriculture or urban development can lead to the release of carbon stored in the soil.
  • On the other hand, sustainable forestry practices, such as reforestation and afforestation, can help to remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it in trees and other vegetation.

In the case of El Salvador, LUCF had a negative impact on El Salvador’s emissions, increasing their carbon footprint by 1.08m tonnes.

After accounting for land use change and forestry, the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions in El Salvador in 2021 was 13.4m metric tonnes.

How vulnerable is El Salvador to the impact of climate change?

The Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative (ND-GAIN) Index

The ND-GAIN Index measures countries’ vulnerability to global challenges, including climate change, and their readiness to improve resilience.

El Salvador scores 45.9 on the ND-Gain Index and is classified in the ‘low vulnerability and low readiness’ category of climate change preparedness.

The index aims to assist businesses, governments, and communities in prioritising investments for a more efficient response to global shifts.

It is measured by combining two main components:

  1. Vulnerability: This evaluates a country’s vulnerability to environmental risks and its ability to adapt. It considers health, food and water availability, infrastructure, and ecosystem services. A higher score indicates greater vulnerability to environmental challenges.
  2. Readiness: This measures how well a country can leverage investments to mitigate climate change. It considers economic stability, governance, technology, and infrastructure. A higher score means a country is better prepared to implement resilience strategies.

This ranking helps identify areas where resources and adaptation strategies can be most effectively directed to mitigate risks and enhance resilience.

By combining these dimensions, the index provides a comprehensive approach to measuring countries’ ability to cope with the impacts of climate change.

Low vulnerability and low readiness in El Salvador

In terms of readiness to adapt to climate change, El Salvador ranks in the above average group. Globally, the average readiness score is 0.424, with El Salvador posting a score of 0.339.

They show the greatest strength in governance aspects, while their performance in social aspects requires improvement.

  • Governance readiness refers to the political, legal, and regulatory aspects influencing a country’s adaptation to climate change, including stability, corruption control, and law enforcement.
  • Social readiness refers to the societal factors like inequality, education, and technology infrastructure that affect a country’s ability to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Regarding vulnerability to climate change, El Salvador falls into the above average category. Compared to the global average vulnerability score of 0.431, El Salvador has a score of 0.421.

Their resilience is most notable in infrastructure areas, yet they face significant challenges in habitat.

  • Infrastructure vulnerability refers to the weaknesses in the coastal protection, transportation, and energy systems, which are critical for building resilience against climate change. Coastal protection safeguards land and ports from rising sea levels and storms. Reliable transportation infrastructure is essential for corporate value chains and can be disrupted by extreme weather. Energy infrastructure resilience ensures a continuous supply of energy during natural disasters, maintaining economic stability.
  • Human habitat refers to the growth of cities and their capacity to withstand climate change impacts like floods and heatwaves. Improved infrastructure enhances urban resilience to extreme weather events.

The formula to calculate the ND-GAIN Index is

GAIN Index=(Readiness Indicators−Vulnerability Indicators+1)×50GAIN Index=(Readiness Indicators−Vulnerability Indicators+1)×50

In this formula:

  • The Readiness Indicators are measured on a scale of 0 to 1, where a higher score means that the readiness is better.
  • The Vulnerability Indicators are also measured on a scale of 0 to 1, but a lower score indicates better vulnerability in this case. 
  • The difference between the Readiness and Vulnerability scores is calculated and then incremented by 1. 
  • Finally, the result is multiplied by 50 to convert the GAIN Index score to a range of 0-100, where a higher score means the situation is better.

Is there a correlation between greenhouse gas emissions and economic growth in El Salvador?

In 2021, the gross domestic product (GDP) in El Salvador grew by 18.1% from the previous year, with the economy moving from $24.9bn to $29.5bn. During the same period, carbon emissions increased by 9.4%. Over the ten-year period from 2011 to 2021, GDP grew 45.2%, while emissions increased by 1.8%.

To put this into context, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of GDP in El Salvador over the past ten years was 3.8%, and the CAGR for greenhouse gas emissions was 0.17%.


World Resources Institute, 2022. Climate Watch Historical GHG Emissions. [online] Washington, DC. Available at:

Global Carbon Project, 2023. Supplemental data of Global Carbon Budget 2023 (Version 1.1) [Data set]. Global Carbon Project. Available at:

UNFCCC, 2023. Greenhouse Gas Inventory Data. [online] Available at:

Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative, 2023. ND-GAIN Country Index. [online] Available at:

FAO, 2022. Land-Use Change and Forestry or Agriculture indicators from FAOSTAT Emissions Database. [online] Available at:

OECD/IEA, 2022. CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion. [online] Available at:

Leave a comment