Historic climate emissions reveal the responsibility of major polluting nations | Greenhouse gas emissions
Analysis of the countries’ total carbon dioxide emissions since 1850 revealed the nations with the greatest historical responsibility in the climate emergency. But six of the top 10 have yet to make ambitious new commitments to cut emissions ahead of the crucial UN climate summit Cop26 in Glasgow in November.
The six include China, Russia and Brazil, which comes only behind the United States as the biggest cumulative polluters. The UK is eighth and Canada is 10th. Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for centuries, and the cumulative amount of CO2 emitted is closely related to the heating 1,2C that the world has already experienced.
In the UN negotiations, historic broadcasts underpin climate justice claims made by developing countries, as well as the wealth disparity of nations. Countries that got richer on fossil fuels have the greatest responsibility to act, say developing countries, and provide low-carbon finance2 development and protection against the impacts of global warming.
The UK is hosting Cop26 and Prime Minister Boris Johnson acknowledged this responsibility in a speech to the UN in September.
The analysis, produced by Carbon Brief, includes, for the first time, emissions from forest destruction and other changes in land use alongside fossil fuels and cement production. This pushes Brazil and Indonesia into the top 10, unlike only fossil fuel emissions considered.
Data also shows the world has now used 85% of CO2 budget that would give a 50% chance of limiting heating to 1.5C, the danger limit agreed in Paris in 2015.
The United States, Germany, Great Britain and Canada are the only top 10 countries to have pledged deeper emission reductions before Cop26. While the United States has said it will double its contribution to climate finance to developing countries, some still consider this to be too little from the world’s largest economy.
Russia has made a new commitment, but it allows for an increase in emissions, and the Climate Action Tracker (Cat) group classifies it as “critically insufficient” in relation to the Paris targets. China and India have yet to make new pledges, while those of Brazil, Indonesia and Japan do not improve on previous pledges.
“There is a direct link between the 2,500 billion tonnes of CO2 pumped into the atmosphere since 1850 and the 1.2 ° C warming we are already experiencing, ”said Simon Evans of Carbon Brief. “Our new analysis sheds light on the people and countries most responsible for heating our planet.
“We cannot ignore the CO2 forestry and land use change, as that is almost a third of the cumulative total since 1850. Once that is included, it is really striking to see Brazil and Indonesia move into the top 10.
Mohamed Nasheed, Ambassador of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), a group of 48 nations, and Speaker of the Maldives Parliament, said: “Fundamental justice demands that those who have done the most to provoke the climate emergency take the lead. approach it. This new analysis clearly shows where the responsibility lies: primarily with the United States, but also lately with China and Russia.
“The historic emitters took the entire 1.5C carbon budget and spent it on their own development. In this sense, we lent them our carbon budget and they owe it to us. Come to the cop we have seen an increase in funding pledges, but they are still well below $ 100 billion [£73.5bn] one year that the CVF requires.
Tom Athanasiou, partner of the Climate Equity Reference Project, said the different capacity of rich and poor nations to finance climate action is important. “Historical responsibility is a key principle of fairness, but it is not the only one,” he said. “Taking into account capacity is essential if we are to prevent climate action from happening at the backs of the poor. “
The Carbon Brief analysis shows that about 85% of the cumulative emissions of the United States and China come from the combustion of fossil fuels and 15% from deforestation, the reverse being true for Brazil and Indonesia. Indonesia has made progress in stopping logging, but logging in Brazil has accelerated under current president Jair Bolsonaro.
The inclusion of deforestation emissions propels Australia from 16th to 13th place – Australia is said to have eliminated almost half of its forest cover in the past 200 years. Australia’s emission reduction commitment for Cop26 does not increase its ambition and is considered “very insufficient” by Cat.
The United States has been the largest cumulative polluter from 1850 to the present day. Russia was the second biggest polluter until 2007, when its emissions were surpassed by those of China, whose emissions began to increase rapidly from the 1970s. The United Kingdom was the third largest emitter for a century, from 1870 to 1970, when it was overtaken by Brazil.
“We started the industrial revolution in Britain. We were the first to send big puffs of acrid smoke skyward on a ladder to disturb the natural order, ”Johnson told the United Nations General Assembly in September. “We understand when the developing world looks to us for help and we take responsibility.”
Cop26 President Alok Sharma said: “Big emitters, especially G20 ones, have a responsibility to send a strong and powerful message to the world that they are raising their ambitions and accelerating action against change. climate. While those who have contributed the most to the problem of global warming should take the lead, all countries and all parts of society have a role to play in addressing this common challenge. “
Robbie Andrew de Cicero, a Norwegian climate research center, said: “Although historical emissions are very significant, almost two-thirds of our fossil CO emissions2 have come since around 1980, and around 40% since 2000 [and] that’s what’s happening now that we can do something about it.
Last week, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said developed economies must take the lead and Greta Thunberg raised the question of historical responsibility also.
“I recognize that the countries that emit the most carbon [dioxide] did not do it with the intention of harming the climate, ”Nasheed said. “The internal combustion engine was invented for mobility, not to drown island nations. So I call for a collective approach in this regard, where we act together to quickly develop the clean technologies we need instead of playing a postcolonial blame game. “
The Carbon Brief analysis used data from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Our World in Data, Global Carbon Project, Carbon Monitor, and studies on emissions from deforestation and changes in the environment. land use. It begins in 1850, before which reliable data is scarce, and therefore does not include emissions due to deforestation that occurred before that date. It took into account the evolution of national borders over time, but did not attribute emissions from previously colonized countries to the colonizing nation.