Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Uruguay
Overview of greenhouse gases and emissions per capita in Uruguay. Are they prepared to meet net zero targets and invest in the energy transition?
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Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Uruguay
Overview of greenhouse gases and emissions per capita in Uruguay. Are they prepared to meet net zero targets and invest in the energy transition?
Loading reading time...
Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Uruguay
Overview of greenhouse gases and emissions per capita in Uruguay. Are they prepared to meet net zero targets and invest in the energy transition?
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What percentage of global greenhouse gas emissions does Uruguay produce?

Uruguay produced 0.08% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 (the latest date with complete emissions data). This amounted to 36m metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, or MtCO₂e. These emissions represented a decrease from 2019 by -1.6%.

In the period from 1990 to 2020 their emissions have increased by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 0.77% and Uruguay has contributed 0.09% of global greenhouse emissions.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in USD$59.3bn
Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 202036m
Change in Emissions since 2019-1.6%
Percentage of Total Emissions (2020)0.08%
Rank – Emitters in 202095
Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions since 19901.08bn
Compound Annual Growth – Emissions since 19900.77%
Percentage of Total Emissions (1990-2020)0.09%
GDP Per Capita (USD)$17k
Emissions Per Capita10.3

In 2020, Uruguay was the world’s 95th 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 Uruguay – average household carbon footprint

The population of Uruguay is 3.49m. On a per capita basis, they produce 10.3 tonnes of CO2e per person, placing them 26th 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 Uruguay?


18.1% of emissions in Uruguay came from Carbon Dioxide (CO2), 56.7% came from Methane (CH4), and 22.1% came from Nitrous Oxide (N2O).


The sector that produced the most emissions in 2020 was the agriculture industry, producing 25.9m of GHG emissions, constituting 72% of total.

The second and third largest emitting sectors were energy and waste, producing 18.3% and 5.7% of total GHG in Uruguay.


The industry that produced the most energy related emissions was the transportation industry, producing 3.62m of GHG emissions, constituting 10.1% of total emissions.

The second and third largest emitting sectors were electricity/heat and manufacturing/construction, emitting 959k and 949k 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 Uruguay, LUCF had a positive impact on Uruguay’s emissions, decreasing their carbon footprint by 1.71m tonnes.

After accounting for land use change and forestry, the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions in Uruguay in 2020 was 34.3m metric tonnes.

How vulnerable is Uruguay 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.

Uruguay scores 56.8 on the ND-Gain Index and is classified in the ‘low vulnerability and high 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 high readiness in Uruguay

In terms of readiness to adapt to climate change, Uruguay ranks in the below average group. Globally, the average readiness score is 0.424, with Uruguay posting a score of 0.509.

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, Uruguay falls into the below average category. Compared to the global average vulnerability score of 0.431, Uruguay has a score of 0.373.

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 Uruguay?

In 2020, the gross domestic product (GDP) in Uruguay declined by -12.5% from the previous year, with the economy moving from $61.2bn to $53.6bn. During the same period, carbon emissions decreased by -1.6%. Over the ten-year period from 2010 to 2020, GDP grew 33%, while emissions decreased by -0.01%.

To put this into context, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of GDP in Uruguay over the past ten years was 2.9%, and the CAGR for greenhouse gas emissions was -0.01%.


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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