Countries That Emit The Most Greenhouse Gases & Carbon Dioxide

In the lists of the guide below, you can see the countries that emit the most greenhouse gases, and specifically carbon dioxide i.e. the countries with the largest carbon footprints.

There’s information for cumulative, annual and per capita emissions.


Summary – Countries That Emit The Most Greenhouse Gases

Emissions for the different countries worldwide might be split into the following categories of measurement:

– Cumulative emissions (all emissions throughout history)

– Annual emissions (total emissions for a given year)

– Per capita emissions (takes into account population size of a country)


Cumulative Emissions

In terms of cumulative CO2 emissions throughout history, the US leads by a significant margin, ahead of China, Germany, the UK and India


Annual Emissions

China is the current leader of annual CO2 emissions, almost doubling the US emissions.

According to some estimates, China is currently responsible for about 30% of emissions, and the United States at 15%

The other countries behind these two are the EU-28, India, Russia and Japan

Read more about the US and their greenhouse gas emissions in this guide

Read more about China and their greenhouse gas emissions in this guide 

Here’s an interesting chart by that shows all the top emitting countries and the main sectors that make up their emissions 

Annual emissions can be influenced by a range of factors such as the main energy source used in a country (fossil fuels for example), level of industrialization and economic growth, population size, affluence of lifestyle and consumption rate, whether a country is a producer or consumer country (and importing or exporting their carbon footprint), and so on.


Per Capita Emissions

Per capita CO2 emissions features some smaller countries, and Qatar tops the list according to some sets of data.

The US and Australia also feature among the top countries.

On average, countries across Scandinavia, sub-Saharan Africa, South America and South Asia might have smaller per capita emission outputs.


An Asterisk About Country Emission Reporting & Numbers

– Accuracy & Reliability Of Emissions Data 

Some sources that indicate that the data provided by some countries about carbon dioxide or general greenhouse gas emissions may be inaccurate or unreliable.

Without speculating on why different governments or reporting bodies may do this, it is worth keeping in mind.


– Exports & Imports

Something else to be aware of when looking at emissions from different countries is the emissions contained in exported goods.

Some countries can be mass producers and manufacturers, but end up exporting materials and goods to other countries who consume them [this is where it’s important to look at producer vs consumer cities].

A true emission footprint in this instance needs to take this into account – the consuming country should take on all or part of that emission footprint


City Level Emissions

Separate to countries, some of the recent data that has come out has been on the city level emissions.

You can read a list of the top emitting cities in the world here.


Top Countries For Cumulative CO2 Emissions

The United States is the leader for cumulative emissions, followed by China.


The countries that lead in terms of total sum of CO2 emissions since 1751 and up to 2014, measured in millions of tonnes, are:

United States – 376,212.65 (Mt)

China – 174,874.89 (Mt)

Germany – 86,536.42 (Mt)

United Kingdom – 75,237.98 (Mt)

India – 41,784.24 (Mt)



Top Countries For Annual CO2 Emissions

China is the leader for annual emissions, followed by the US.


The countries that lead in terms of total sum of CO2 emissions per year in 2016, measured in millions of tonnes, are:

China – 10,283.51 (Mt)

US – 5,565.49 (Mt)

EU-28 – a mix of european countries (Germany features high on the list)

India – 2,236.55 (Mt)

Russia – 1,669.6 (Mt)

Japan – 1266.6 (Mt)



In 2014, the top countries for CO2 emissions were:

China – 30%

Other – 30%

United States – 15%

EU-28 – 9%

India – 7%

Russia – 5%

Japan – 4%



Top Countries For Per Capita CO2 Emissions

Qatar tops the per capita emissions list according to a few sets of data.


The countries with the highest per capita (CO2 emissions per person in the population), measured in tonnes per person per year, are:

Qatar – 47.83 (tonnes per person per year)

Trinidad & Tobago – 30.06

Kuwait – 25.81

United Arab Emirates – 25.79

Bahrain – 24.51

Brunei – 23.7

Saudi Arabia – 19.66

New Caledonia – 18.2

Australia – 16.5

Luxembourg – 16.47

United States –  16.44

[China sits at 7.36]



1. Qatar




United Arab Emirates

Trinidad and Tobago


Saudi Arabia


10. United States



Countries That Emit The Least CO2 Per Capita

Countries across Scandinavia, sub-Saharan Africa, South America and South Asia might have lower per capita carbon footprints on average


1. Denmark




South Sudan





10. Togo



Most nations across sub-Saharan Africa, South America and South Asia have per capita emissions below five tonnes per year (many have less than 1-2 tonnes)



Read More About Climate Change

If you’re interested in reading more about climate change, this guide outlines some of the basic information to consider, and this guide outlines some of the general solutions that have been proposed to address it









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