Overview of carbon emissions produced by Malawi
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What percentage of global greenhouse gas emissions does Malawi produce?

Malawi produces 0.04% of global emissions, and has been ranked the world’s 131st largest emitter of greenhouse gases since 1990. Since this date, their annual emissions have increased by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.8%.

Summary – GHG Emissions in Malawi

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in USD$12.6bn
Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 201919.3m
Change in Emissions since 20182.3%
Percentage of Total Emissions (2019)0.04%
Rank – Emitters in 2019124
Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions since 1990418m
Compound Annual Growth – Emissions since 19901.8%
Percentage of Total Emissions (1990-2019)0.04%
GDP Per Capita (USD)$643
Emissions Per Capita1.0
641ce8185d8a778ffcdb0452 Malawi and ten largest%2520emitters since 1990

In the last recorded year (2019), Malawi was the world’s 124th largest producer of yearly carbon dioxide emissions and contributed 0.04% of all global emissions. The top three emitters in the same period were China, the United States, and India. These three nations produced 25.2%, 12%, and 7% of global emissions respectively.

641ce8185d8a77639fdb0453 Malawi change in emissions 1990 to present

In 2019, Malawi emitted 19.3m metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, or MtCO₂e. This represented an increase in emissions from 2018 by 2.3%.

Emissions per capita in Malawi – average household carbon footprint

The population of Malawi is 19.6m. On a per capita basis, they produce 1.0 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) per person. This places them 182nd out of 191 on emissions produced per capita. The top three emitters per capita are Solomon Islands, Qatar, and Kuwait.

What is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Malawi?

In 2019, Malawi produced 11m metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. This was an increase of 5.4% from 2018. 13.3% of these emissions came from CO2, 36.1% came from CH4, and 43% came from N2O.

The sector that produced the most emissions in 2019 was the land-use change and forestry industry. Land-Use Change and Forestry produced 8.39m of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This amounted to 76.7% of total GHG in Malawi. The second and third largest emitting sectors were agriculture and energy- producing 71.8% and 14.7% of total GHG respectively.


The industry that produced the most energy related emissions was the transportation sector, emitting 1.18m tonnes of greenhouse gas. The second and third largest emitting sectors were fugitive emissions and electricity/heat – producing 250k and 151k 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 Malawi, their LUCF had a negative impact on their emissions, increasing their footprint by 8.39m tonnes.

After accounting for land use change and forestry, the total amount of greenhouse emissions in Malawi in 2019 was 19.3m metric tonnes.

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

In 2019, gross domestic product (GDP) in Malawi grew by 11.6% from the previous year. Measured in US dollars, the economy went from $9.88bn to $11bn. In the same period carbon emissions increased by 2.3%. Over a ten year period from 2009 to 2019, GDP grew by 78.1%, while emissions have increased by 36.5%.

To put this into context, the compound annual growth rate of GDP in Malawi over the previous ten years was 5.9% and the CAGR for greenhouse gas emissions was 3.2%.

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