Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Marshall Islands

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

What percentage of global greenhouse gas emissions does the Marshall Islands produce?

The Marshall Islands produced 0.01% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2021 (the latest date with complete emissions data). This amounted to 213k metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, or MtCO₂e. These emissions represented an increase from 2020 by 4.4%.

In the period from 1990 to 2021 their emissions have increased by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.2% and the Marshall Islands has contributed 0.01% of global greenhouse emissions.

Countrythe Marshall Islands
Population59.6k
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in USD$249m
Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 2021213k
Change in Emissions since 20204.4%
Percentage of Total Emissions (2021)0.01%
Rank – Emitters in 2021186
Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions since 19904.84m
Compound Annual Growth – Emissions since 19907.2%
Percentage of Total Emissions (1990-2021)0.01%
GDP Per Capita (USD)$4.17k
Emissions Per Capita3.6

In 2021, the Marshall Islands was the world’s 186th 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 the Marshall Islands is the 187th largest emitter since 1990.

Emissions per capita in The Marshall Islands – average household carbon footprint

The population of the Marshall Islands is 59.6k. On a per capita basis, they produce 3.6 tonnes of CO2e per person, placing them 112th 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 the Marshall Islands?

Gases

73.5% of emissions in the Marshall Islands came from Carbon Dioxide (CO2), 15% came from Methane (CH4), and 0.33% came from Nitrous Oxide (N2O).

Sectors

The sector that produced the most emissions in 2021 was the energy industry, producing 157k of GHG emissions, constituting 73.5% of total.

The second and third largest emitting sectors were waste and industrial processes, producing 15.3% and 11.2% of total GHG in the Marshall Islands.

Energy

The industry that produced the most energy related emissions was the transportation industry, producing 95.1k of GHG emissions, constituting 44.6% of total emissions.

The second and third largest emitting sectors were electricity/heat and building, emitting 61k and 700 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 the Marshall Islands, LUCF had no impact on the Marshall Islands’s emissions, decreasing their carbon footprint by 0 tonnes.

After accounting for land use change and forestry, the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the Marshall Islands in 2021 was 213k metric tonnes.

How vulnerable is the Marshall Islands 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.

The Marshall Islands scores 39.6 on the ND-Gain Index and is classified in the ‘high 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.

High vulnerability and low readiness in the Marshall Islands

In terms of readiness to adapt to climate change, The Marshall Islands ranks in the above average group. Globally, the average readiness score is 0.424, with the Marshall Islands posting a score of 0.365.

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, The Marshall Islands falls into the bottom 10% category. Compared to the global average vulnerability score of 0.431, the Marshall Islands has a score of 0.573.

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

  • Food vulnerability refers to the sensitivity of agricultural yields and import dependencies, as well the capacity to adapt through agricultural resources. Innovations in agriculture can mitigate food insecurity risks due to climate change.
  • 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.

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 the Marshall Islands?

In 2021, the gross domestic product (GDP) in the Marshall Islands grew by 7.1% from the previous year, with the economy moving from $241m to $258m. During the same period, carbon emissions increased by 4.4%. Over the ten-year period from 2011 to 2021, GDP grew 50.3%, while emissions increased by 2%.

To put this into context, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of GDP in the Marshall Islands over the past ten years was 4.2%, and the CAGR for greenhouse gas emissions was 1.8%.

Sources

World Resources Institute, 2022. Climate Watch Historical GHG Emissions. [online] Washington, DC. Available at: https://www.climatewatchdata.org/ghg-emissions.

Global Carbon Project, 2023. Supplemental data of Global Carbon Budget 2023 (Version 1.1) [Data set]. Global Carbon Project. Available at: https://doi.org/10.18160/gcp-2023.

UNFCCC, 2023. Greenhouse Gas Inventory Data. [online] Available at: https://di.unfccc.int.

Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative, 2023. ND-GAIN Country Index. [online] Available at: https://gain.nd.edu.

FAO, 2022. Land-Use Change and Forestry or Agriculture indicators from FAOSTAT Emissions Database. [online] Available at: https://www.fao.org/faostat/.

OECD/IEA, 2022. CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion. [online] Available at: https://www.iea.org/reports/co2-emissions-in-2022.

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