10 Nations with Highest Greenhouse Gas Emissions Per Capita

Understanding the emissions produced per person is crucial in addressing climate change.
Published:
10 Nations with Highest Greenhouse Gas Emissions Per Capita
Understanding the emissions produced per person is crucial in addressing climate change.
Published:
10 Nations with Highest Greenhouse Gas Emissions Per Capita
Understanding the emissions produced per person is crucial in addressing climate change.
Published:
Last updated:

Greenhouse gas emissions are a significant contributor to global warming and climate change. Understanding the emissions per capita, or the amount produced per person, in different countries is crucial in addressing this global issue.

This article will explore the ten countries with the highest emissions per capita. These include Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Australia.

These countries, with some of the highest levels of emissions per capita in the world, provide an opportunity to examine the drivers of high emissions and explore potential solutions.

What are greenhouse gas emissions?

Greenhouse gas emissions are gases that absorb and emit thermal radiation. This creates a “greenhouse effect” that traps heat near the Earth’s surface and warms the planet.

These primarily include carbon dioxide (CO2) and other gases such as methane and nitrous oxide. These gases are released into the atmosphere by human activities such as burning fossil fuels, raising livestock, land-use change and deforestation.

Emissions have increased significantly since the Industrial Revolution, leading to a record high in recent years. These emissions can stay in the atmosphere for up to 200 years, disrupting Earth’s carbon cycle and contributing to global warming.

Line chart showing the growth of annual greenhouse gas emissions globally over the past 30 years.

Importance of understanding emissions per capita

Understanding emissions per person is crucial in measuring a country or region’s sustainability and environmental impact. It provides a way to compare the ecological footprint of different countries and populations, considering differences in population size and demographic factors.

High emissions per capita indicate an unsustainable pattern of resource consumption and pollution generation. Low emissions per person suggest a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.

Analysing emissions per capita can also help identify areas for action to reduce emissions, promote sustainability and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Additionally, it can serve as a benchmark for policymakers to set and evaluate emissions reduction targets and the effectiveness of emissions reduction strategies.

An illustration depicting a man standing outdoors with factories emitting CO2 in the background. The man is holding a calculator and appears to be calculating per capita emissions. The image highlights the significance of understanding emissions per capita in relation to industrial emissions.

What factors can influence the level of emissions per capita?

Several factors can influence the level of emissions per capita in a country. These include

  1. Energy consumption. A country’s reliance on fossil fuels for energy production, transportation and industry can significantly increase emissions.
  2. Economic development. More developed countries tend to have higher emissions due to greater energy consumption and industrial activity.
  3. Population density. Higher population densities can increase transportation, residential, and commercial energy consumption emissions.
  4. Climate. Climate can influence energy consumption for heating and cooling and can impact the type of energy sources used.
  5. Government policies. The policies and regulations put in place by a government can significantly impact emissions levels, for example, incentives for renewable energy or penalties for high-emissions industries.
  6. Lifestyle choices. Personal choices, such as the type of vehicle driven or the amount of energy used in a household, can also contribute to emissions.
  7. Natural resources. A country’s natural resources, such as oil, natural gas, and coal, can also impact emissions levels if they are extensively used as energy sources.
An illustration showing a man standing with a background divided into two sides. On one side, there is a depiction of sustainability measures, such as renewable energy sources and green transportation. On the other side, there is a factory emitting CO2. The man in the image is reading a paper that appears to be related to understanding the factors that contribute to emissions per capita. The image highlights the various factors that can influence the level of emissions per capita, including both sustainable and unsustainable practices..

Which nations have the highest per capita greenhouse gas emission rates?

Based on data from Climate Watch, The ten countries emitting the most greenhouse gases per capita are

  1. The Solomon Islands
  2. Qatar
  3. Kuwait
  4. Bahrain
  5. Turkmenistan
  6. Guyana
  7. The United Arab Emirates
  8. Australia
  9. Suriname
  10. Brunei Darussalam

1. The Solomon Islands

The Pacific island nation of the Solomon Islands is known for its vast ocean territory and diverse cultures, with a population of 703,995 people.

Despite its relatively small size, the country has high per capita emissions of 65.8 metric tons of CO2 equivalent, putting it in the highest rank for emissions per capita globally.

The high emissions per capita in the Solomon Islands could be attributed to deforestation for agriculture and development. 97% of their emissions are associated with land use change and forestry.

2. Qatar

A small, petroleum-driven nation in the Middle East, Qatar is renowned for its abundant natural gas reserves. With a population of 2.93 million, Qatar has the highest per capita emissions of any country in the world, producing an average of 39.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) per person.

The primary reason for this high level of emissions is the country’s extensive use of fossil fuels, particularly natural gas, for energy production, transportation, and industry. Additionally, the country’s rapidly growing economy, driven by the production and export of oil and natural gas, has increased energy consumption and industrial activity.

3. Kuwait

A wealthy Gulf state in the Middle East, Kuwait boasts one of the highest GDPs per capita in the world, driven mainly by its oil and gas industry. With a population of 4.33 million, Kuwait ranks as the world’s second-highest emitter of greenhouse gases per capita, producing 31.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) per person.

The country’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels, particularly oil, and its rapidly growing economy are the primary contributors to its high emissions. The oil and natural gas sector accounts for a significant portion of Kuwait’s GDP and energy consumption, driving the high emissions levels.

4. Bahrain

This small island nation in the Persian Gulf is known for its rich history, cultural heritage, and lucrative oil and gas industry. Bahrain has a population of 1.75 million and produces 31.1 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) per person, ranking it the third-highest emitter of greenhouse gases per capita globally.

The country’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels, particularly oil, for energy production, transportation, and industry is the primary contributor to its high emissions levels.

The oil and natural gas sector also accounts for a significant portion of Bahrain’s GDP and energy consumption.

In addition, the country’s rapidly growing economy and urbanisation have increased energy consumption and industrial activity.

Scatter chart showing countries generating the most greenhouse gas emissions per person. On the y axis is the GDP per capita for the nation.

5. Turkmenistan

With vast reserves of natural gas, Turkmenistan is a prominent energy producer located at the crossroads of Central Asia and the Middle East.

Turkmenistan has a population of 6.12 million and produces 25.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) per person. The country is rich in fossil fuels, particularly natural gas, significantly affecting its high emissions levels.

6. Guyana

Guyana, a South American country with a population of 790,329, has lower per capita emissions of 25 metric tons of CO2 equivalent. Guyana’s high emissions per capita may result from its growing industrial sector and expanding extractive industries, such as oil and gas production.

Historically, Guyana has been a net importer of oil. Recent oil offshore discoveries in the Stabroek, Canje and Kaieteur Blocks have transformed the economy into a petroleum exporter.

7. The United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven emirates on the Arabian Peninsula. It is known for its modern infrastructure, diverse economy, and large oil reserves. With a population of 9.99 million and an output of 24.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) per person, it is the 5th largest global emitter per capita.

The country is a prominent oil producer with a rapidly developing economy driving an increase in energy consumption and industrial activity. The oil and natural gas sector accounts for a significant portion of the UAE’s GDP and energy consumption, contributing to its high emissions levels.

8. Australia

Australia, with a population of 25.7 million, is the 6th highest emitter of greenhouse gases per capita, producing 23.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) per person.

A vast and diverse country known for its unique landscapes and natural beauty, Australia is also one of the world’s largest energy producers and exporters. The country has a significant coal industry and reliance on fossil fuels for energy production, transportation, and industry, contributing to its high emissions levels.

Australia’s large rural areas and extensive agriculture sector also add to its emissions through land-use changes and livestock production.

9. Suriname

Suriname, with a population of 591,798, has per capita emissions of 23.4 metric tons of CO2 equivalent. Suriname’s high emissions per capita could be attributed to its energy mix that heavily relies on fossil fuels and its bauxite mining industry.

Land use also plays a factor, with over half of national emissions attributed to land use change and forestry. Despite having a high proportion of rainforest, tree cover loss has increased in Suriname in recent years.

10. Brunei Darussalam

Brunei Darussalam, with a population of 442,000, produces 21.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) per person. This small, oil-rich nation on the island of Borneo is known for its traditional Islamic culture and lavish oil wealth.

The country is a major oil producer and highly dependent on fossil fuels for energy production and industry, contributing to its high emissions levels. The country’s transportation sector, including air and sea travel, also contributes to its emissions.

Findings from the ten countries

The top 10 emitters of greenhouse gases per capita are mainly oil-rich nations in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Latin America. These countries have high emissions levels due to their reliance on fossil fuels, particularly oil, for energy production and transportation.

Many of these nations have rapidly growing economies, which has led to an increase in energy consumption and industrial activity, further contributing to their emissions levels. Australia stands out as the only developed country on the list, with emissions driven by its coal industry and reliance on fossil fuels for energy production and transportation.

The impact of high per capita emissions on the environment

High per capita greenhouse gas emissions significantly impact the environment. Burning fossil fuels, such as oil, coal, and natural gas, releases large amounts of carbon dioxide, methane, and other gases into the atmosphere. These gases trap heat and cause the planet’s temperature to rise, leading to climate change. Climate change can cause rising sea levels, more intense and frequent natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and droughts, changes in precipitation patterns, and impacts on ecosystems, agriculture, and human health.

Additionally, fossil fuel extraction, production, and use contribute to air and water pollution, deforestation, and other forms of environmental degradation. High per capita emissions, especially in countries with rapidly developing economies, can exacerbate these environmental impacts and the challenges posed by climate change.

How can we reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally?

High per capita emissions significantly impact the environment, contributing to global warming, climate change, and other environmental problems. We must take immediate and sustained action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally.

We can each do our part by making small changes in our daily lives, such as reducing energy consumption, using public transportation or electric vehicles, and eating a more plant-based diet.

Governments and corporations can also play a significant role by investing in renewable energy, promoting sustainability, and implementing policies encouraging low carbon emissions.

The future of our planet depends on our collective action, and it is up to us to ensure that we leave a healthy and habitable world for future generations. Let us work together to reduce our carbon footprint and create a better future for all.

An artistic illustration poses the question 'How can we reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally?' at the bottom. It features a vibrant, floating island with lush green trees and a single wind turbine against a backdrop of swirling blue and green air currents, symbolizing clean energy and a healthy environment.

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Author

Rob Boyle
Rob built Emission Index to collect and share data, trends and opportunities to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and expedite the energy transition.

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