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10 August 2021

The US produces the same carbon emissions as 89 countries in the Global South

As nations race to stave off further climate crisis, some shoulder more responsibility than others.

By Nick Ferris

The sixth report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published on Monday 9 August stated that climate change is real – with the current raging wildfires in Greece and Turkey evidence of its progression – and that the longer the world postpones taking action, the more likely it is to be irreversible.

A major sticking point at international climate summits to date, however, has been around responsibility for historic emissions, given the differences in rates of industrialisation between nations. A recent report from NGOs including Friends of the Earth and ActionAid estimates that a “fair share” for contemporary US emissions reductions would be 195 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, far higher than President Joe Biden’s current target of between 50 per cent to 52 per cent. 

[See also: IPCC climate report: the arrival of the natural disaster movie age?]

Furthermore, analysis from the New Statesman shows that it is not only in the past that the US has emitted disproportionately. The 5284.70 megatonnes of CO2 (MTCO2) that the US emitted in 2019 is equivalent to the combined emissions of 5284.73 MTCO2 produced that same year by 89 countries across South America, Africa and much of the Middle East and Central Asia. This includes large emitters such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Brazil.

John Kerry, the US Special Climate Envoy, said on 9 August that the IPCC report required “real action” to be taken in the 2020s. All eyes are now on the COP26 climate summit which is going to take place in Glasgow in November, and whether leaders will finally lay out a fair path to reducing global emissions.

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The US produces the same carbon emissions as Africa, much of central Asia, and South America combined
Land areas of equivalent emissions, US versus rest of the world (MtCO₂)

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