What Is A Sustainable Carbon Footprint (Per Person) To Aim For?

We’ve already outlined some of the ways that individuals might be able to decrease their own personal carbon footprint.

But, below, we consider what a sustainable carbon footprint for individuals might be.

Let’s take a look!


Summary – Sustainable Carbon Footprint To Aim For, For Individuals

Estimates For Per Person Sustainable Carbon Footprint To Aim For

Current estimates for a suitable carbon footprint per person, per year, might range from 2 to 3 tons CO2e, according to different estimates from different reports

This figure would be to try to limit warming to below 1.5 to 2 degrees


Global Average, & US Average Per Person Carbon Footprint

To put the figures above into context:

The global average is currently 4.5 tons (per person, per year)


Some countries like the U.S. might have a much higher per capita figure than this, and other countries might have a footprint much closer to this global average


How To Determine A Sustainable Carbon Footprint To Aim For

This might involve a few steps:

1. Determine the global, or national total carbon emissions target by a certain year (in terms of total tons of CO2e) to limit warming to say 1.5 or 2 degrees (above pre industrial levels)

2. Divide that number by the global or national population size to get a per person carbon footprint target


This approach takes into account a change in population size over time

It may also help identify countries who have higher per capita emission rates than others (and vice versa for those with lower rates)


Potential Limitations Of Carbon Footprints

Carbon footprints might be considered a tool only i.e. they are a generalisation, and not a definitive measurement to rely on.

There might be several reasons for this, such as that carbon targets can change as certain variables change, it can be difficult to track/record direct and indirect emissions, and it might be difficult to separate producer vs consumer emission footprints for different countries

Carbon sinks and future carbon sequestration may also have to be taken into account when calculating carbon footprints

These factors and other factors can be potential limitations in carbon footprints as a tool


What Might Be A Sustainable Carbon Footprint To Aim For Per Person, & Why?

Factors To Consider When Determining A Sustainable Per Person Carbon Footprint

Potential factors that might go into determining a sustainable per capita carbon footprint might include:

– Climate targets for the future, by a specific year, to limit warming to a certain temperature above pre industrial level

– What emission totals might lead to meeting specific climate targets

– Population size forecasts by a specific year in the future

– Global natural carbon sinks in the ocean, soil, biomass, and so on


What A Sustainable Global Per Person Carbon Footprint Might Be

Information from different reports below might indicate that a sustainable global per person carbon footprint might be somewhere between 2 to 3 tons of carbon dioxide per person, per year


More Information On A Potential Per Person Sustainable Carbon Footprint

ecocivilization.info outlines:

[A sustainable carbon footprint to aim for might be] 3 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per person per year

[At this footprint rate] … yearly total global carbon dioxide emissions would be 21 gigatons [and] That’s equal to the global natural carbon sinks in the ocean, soil, biomass that keeps the amount of global carbon dioxide in the atmosphere level.


From ourworld.unu.edu:

Trying to limit rising global temperatures to 1.5°C … means cutting CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050 [and] This means that per person per year we would have to live a 3-tonne lifestyle


Assuming a global population around 9-10 billion by 2050, a carbon footprint of about 2 – 2.5 tons CO2e per capita (per person) is needed to stay within a 2 °C target (set by the Paris Agreement) (wikipedia.org)


Current Average Carbon Footprint Per Person, Per Year – Globally, & By Country

There’s a global average per capita carbon footprint

Some countries have far higher per capita carbon footprints than the global average, such as the US and some other countries

Vice versa, there’s also countries below the current per capita global average


Global Average Carbon Footprint (Per Person, Per Year)

… the global average is 4.5 tons (per person, per year) (ecocivilization.info)


The current global average (footprint per person) is more like 4-tonnes (ourworld.unu.edu)


The global average carbon footprint in 2007 was around 5.7 tons CO2e/cap (wikipedia.org)


Average Carbon Footprint (Per Person, Per Year), For Major Countries & Regions

From ecocivilization.info:

… the U.S. average per person is 17.5 tons a person per year

… China is 6.4 tons a person per year. 


Each Australian and American has an average footprint of almost 30 tonnes of CO2e per year (ourworld.unu.edu)


According to wikipedia.org, in 2007, the average carbon footprint was:

The EU average … was about 13.8 tons CO2e/cap,

The U.S., Luxembourg and Australia average … was over 25 tons CO2e/cap.

The footprints per capita of countries in Africa and India were well below average.


Other Information On How Much Carbon Each Country Emits

We’ve previously outlined the countries that emit the most greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide in this guide.


How Individuals Might Be Able To Lower Their Carbon Footprint

We’ve put together a separate guide which might contain some helpful information on lowering an individual’s carbon footprint.

There are potential high, moderate and low impact actions to consider, as well as considering the carbon footprint of the products and things we use on an everyday basis.


Calculating An Individual’s Carbon Footprint

There’s several carbon footprint calculators available online that might help provide a generalised carbon footprint for an individual.





1. http://www.ecocivilization.info/three-tons-carbon-dioxide-per-person-per-year.html

2. Various ‘Better Meets Reality’ guides

3. https://ourworld.unu.edu/en/uncovering-the-carbon-footprint-of-everything

4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_footprint


' ); } ?>

Leave a Comment