Logo of the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency
To the main menuTo the submenuTo the main content

China now no. 1 in CO2 emissions; USA in second position

In 2006 global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use increased by about 2.6%, which is less than the 3.3% increase in 2005. The 2.6% increase is mainly due to a 4.5% increase in global coal consumption, of which China contributed more than two-third. China’s 2006 CO2 emissions surpassed those of the USA by 8%. This includes CO2 emissions from industrial processes (cement production). With this, China tops the list of CO2 emitting countries for the first time. In 2005, CO2 emissions of China were still 2% below those of the USA. These figures are based on a preliminary estimate by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (MNP), using recently published BP (British Petroleum) energy data and cement production data. In the 1990-2006 period global fossil-fuel related CO2 emissions increased over 35%.

Global CO2 emissions

Global fossil CO2 emissions for 2006

In 2006 global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use increased by about 2.6%, which is less than the 3.3% increase in 2005. These figures are based on a preliminary estimate by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (MNP) using BP energy data (BP, 2007). The increase in 2006 is mainly due to a 4.5% increase in coal consumption:

  • global CO2 emissions from coal combustion increased 4.5% (+500 megatonne CO2). China contributed most to this increase with a 9% increase in 2006 (vs. 12% in 2005). In the rest of the world coal combustion emissions increased by 2%.
  • global CO2 emissions from combustion of natural gas increased 2.5% (+130 megatonne CO2), mainly due to increasing consumption in Russia and China.
  • global CO2 emissions from combustion of oil products increased only 0.7% (+90 megatonne CO2), mainly due to a decrease in consumption in OECD countries by 0.9% on average.

Total fossil CO2 emissions of China increased in 2006 by 8.7%. In the USA, according to the BP data CO2 emissions decreased in 2006 by 1.4% relative to 2005. Fossil CO2 emissions of the European Union countries “EU-15” remained almost constant in 2006; in 2005 these decreased by 0.8% according to a recent report by the EEA compiling data from the member states (EEA, 2007).

Figure: chart with the global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use by region 1990-2006 (PBL); global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use increased by about 2.6% in 2006 compared to 2005

CO2 emissions China now larger than the U.S.

Since 2006, China’s CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use and industrial processes (cement production) have been larger than the emissions of the USA. With approximately 8% higher emissions than those of the USA, China now tops the list of CO2 emitting countries. In 2005, the CO2 emissions of China were still 2% below those of the USA. The EU-15, with a volume of emissions about half of that of China, occupies the third position, followed by Russia, India and Japan.

Cement clinker production is the largest CO2 source among industrial processes, contributing about 4% of global total CO2 emissions from fuel use and industrial activities. However, for Chinawith its large and increasing share in global cement production of about 44% in 2006, the share of CO2from cement production in national total CO2 emissions is almost 9% (550 megatonne out of a total of about 6200 megatonne CO2). For the USA these figures are about 5800 megatonne CO2 in total, of which 50 megaton from cement production.

Methodology and data sources

The recent trend estimates were compiled by MNP using the trends in most recent data on fossil fuel consumption from the BP Review of Energy 2007 (BP, 2007) and cement production data through 2006 published by the US Geological Survey (USGS). The CO2 estimates for 2005 and 2006 were compiled by MNP using the detailed national CO2 emission estimates for energy use through 2004 compiled by the International Energy Agency (IEA,2006) and own estimates for CO2 emissions from cement clinker production.

The estimates of CO2 emissions do not include emissions from flaring and venting of associated gas during oil and gas production and CO2 emissions from deforestation/logging/decay of remaining biomass and are calculated using default CO2 emission factors recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). CO2 emissions from underground coal fires in China and elsewhere are not included either. The magnitude of these sources is very uncertain; according to recent research CO2 emissions from coal fires are estimated at 150-450 megatonne CO2 annually in China.

The energy data annually published by BP appear to be reasonably accurate: based on older BP energy data, the increase in 2004 in CO2 emissions was estimated at 4.9% globally. With presently available more detailed statistics of the International Energy Agency (IEA) for 2004 the increase is now estimated at 5.0%. Energy statistics for fast changing economies such as China are less accurate than those of traditional industrialized countries within the OECD.

More information

See also: