Largest global emitters of carbon dioxide by country 2018

In 2018, China was the biggest emitter of fossil fuel carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. With a share of almost 30 percent of the world’s total CO2 emissions that year, this was almost twice the amount emitted by the second biggest emitter the United States.

Cumulative emissions

Although China currently emits the highest levels of CO2 annually, it has emitted far less than the United States over the past three centuries. Cumulative carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. reached 367 billion metric tons by 2018. Since the birth of the Industrial Revolution more than 200 years ago, cumulative global CO2 emissions have increased dramatically. However, emissions started to increase more rapidly as of the 1960’s. Between 1968 and 2018, worldwide CO2 emissions had increased by 23.7 billion metric tons.

Impact of COVID-19 on emissions

Throughout history, major events such as wars and recessions have caused emission levels to fall. In 2020, COVID-19 led to a drop in emissions as governments enforced strict lockdowns. Travel bans around the world meant the transportation sector experienced significant emission reductions. By April 2020, aviation emissions had fallen 60 percent, relative to annual mean daily emissions in 2019.

Largest producers of fossil fuel CO2 emissions worldwide in 2018, by share of emissions

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Supplementary notes

* Based on total emissions of 36,573 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

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