Greenhouse Gas Emissions in North Korea
Overview of greenhouse gases and emissions per capita in North Korea. Are they prepared to meet net zero targets and invest in the energy transition?
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Greenhouse Gas Emissions in North Korea
Overview of greenhouse gases and emissions per capita in North Korea. Are they prepared to meet net zero targets and invest in the energy transition?
Loading reading time...
Greenhouse Gas Emissions in North Korea
Overview of greenhouse gases and emissions per capita in North Korea. Are they prepared to meet net zero targets and invest in the energy transition?
Loading reading time...

What percentage of global greenhouse gas emissions does North Korea produce?

North Korea produced 0.17% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 (the latest date with complete emissions data). This amounted to 76.1m metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, or MtCO₂e. These emissions represented a decrease from 2019 by -4.1%.

In the period from 1990 to 2020 their emissions have decreased by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of -2.3% and North Korea has contributed 0.23% of global greenhouse emissions.

CountryNorth Korea
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in USD$nan
Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 202076.1m
Change in Emissions since 2019-4.1%
Percentage of Total Emissions (2020)0.17%
Rank – Emitters in 202060
Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions since 19902.71bn
Compound Annual Growth – Emissions since 1990-2.3%
Percentage of Total Emissions (1990-2020)0.23%
GDP Per Capita (USD)$nan
Emissions Per Capita2.9

In 2020, North Korea was the world’s 60th largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions. The largest emitters in the same period were China, the United States, India, Russia and Japan.

Emissions per capita in North Korea – average household carbon footprint

The population of North Korea is 25.9m. On a per capita basis, they produce 2.9 tonnes of CO2e per person, placing them 120th out of 191 on emissions produced per capita. The biggest per capita emitters are Qatar, Turkmenistan, Kuwait and Bahrain.

What is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in North Korea?


68.9% of emissions in North Korea came from Carbon Dioxide (CO2), 23.9% came from Methane (CH4), and 3.4% came from Nitrous Oxide (N2O).


The sector that produced the most emissions in 2020 was the energy industry, producing 63.9m of GHG emissions, constituting 84% of total.

The second and third largest emitting sectors were industrial processes and agriculture, producing 7.3% and 6.7% of total GHG in North Korea.


The industry that produced the most energy related emissions was the manufacturing/construction industry, producing 31.5m of GHG emissions, constituting 41.3% of total emissions.

The second and third largest emitting sectors were fugitive emissions and building, emitting 12.6m and 7.07m 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 North Korea, LUCF had a negative impact on North Korea’s emissions, increasing their carbon footprint by 3.36m tonnes.

After accounting for land use change and forestry, the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions in North Korea in 2020 was 79.4m metric tonnes.

How vulnerable is North Korea 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.

North Korea scores 43.6 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 North Korea

In terms of readiness to adapt to climate change, North Korea ranks in the above average group. Globally, the average readiness score is 0.424, with North Korea posting a score of 0.341.

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

  • 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.
  • 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.

Regarding vulnerability to climate change, North Korea falls into the above average category. Compared to the global average vulnerability score of 0.431, North Korea has a score of 0.47.

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

  • 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.
  • Ecosystem services refers to the natural capital and resources foundational to economies and societies. Climate change-induced shifts in geoclimes stress ecosystems, highlighting the need for adaptive responses.

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 North Korea?

In 2020, the gross domestic product (GDP) in North Korea did not change 0% from the previous year, with the economy moving from $nan to $nan. During the same period, carbon emissions decreased by -4.1%. Over the ten-year period from 2010 to 2020, GDP did not change 0%, while emissions increased by 3.4%.

To put this into context, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of GDP in North Korea over the past ten years was 0%, and the CAGR for greenhouse gas emissions was 0.33%.


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:

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