China Now Leads in Total Carbon Dioxide Emissions, Says Report

June 27, 2007

Here's one area where the United States is happy to come in second place: in carbon dioxide emissions. According to a new analysis by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, China surpassed the United States in total carbon dioxide emissions in 2006. While China's emissions were about 2% below the U.S. emissions in 2005, the U.S. emissions decreased slightly in 2006, while China's emissions increased by 8.7%, making them 8% greater than the U.S. emissions. According to the report, China produces about 44% of the world's cement, and the high energy use of this industry is a key factor in the country's high carbon dioxide emissions. See the agency's press release.

The Dutch agency later tried to place these figures in perspective, noting that on a per capita basis, the United States still produces roughly four times as much carbon dioxide as China, at about 20 tons per person. The agency also noted that a substantial part of China's emissions are due to its production of goods for export to industrialized countries. Current greenhouse gas agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol, do not address which country is ultimately responsible for the emissions generated in one country while manufacturing a product for use in another country. See the agency's follow-up press release.