Environment at a Glance 2013
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branch 1. Environmental trends
  branch Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions

Carbon dioxide (CO2) from the combustion of fossil fuels and biomass for energy use is a major contributor to the enhanced greenhouse effect. It makes up the largest share of greenhouse gases and is a key factor in countries' ability to deal with climate change.


The indicators presented here refer to gross direct emissions of CO2 from fossil fuel combustion. Human-caused emissions from other sources are not included. They show total emissions as well as emission intensities per unit of GDP and per capita, and related changes since 1990.

Emissions from oil held in international marine and aviation bunkers are excluded at national level, but included at world level.

CO2 removal by sinks, indirect emissions from land use changes and indirect effects through interactions in the atmosphere are not taken into account.

This indicator should be read in conjunction with indicators on total greenhouse gas emissions, energy intensity, energy prices and taxes, and atmospheric concentrations of GHGs. Its interpretation should take into account the structure of countries' energy supply and the relative importance of renewable energy, as well as climatic factors.


CO2 emissions from energy use are still growing in many countries and worldwide, mainly due to increases in the transport and the energy transformation sectors. In 2010 global energy-related CO2 emissions accounted for around 75% of global GHG emissions, with fossil fuel combustion representing two-thirds of global CO2 emissions.

Since 1990, energy-related CO2 emissions have grown more slowly in OECD countries as a group than they have worldwide.

Today, OECD countries emit less than half the world's CO2 emissions from energy use.

On a per capita basis, OECD countries still emit far more CO2 than most other world regions, with 10 tonnes of CO2 emitted per capita on average in OECD countries in 2009, compared to 4 tonnes in the rest of the world.

Individual OECD countries' rates of progress towards stabilisation vary significantly, regardless of whether they are considered in absolute numbers, per capita amounts or per unit of GDP.

CO2 emissions from energy use continue to grow, particularly in the OECD Asia-Pacific region and in the Americas (see list of acronyms and abbreviations). This can be partly attributed to energy production and consumption patterns and trends, often combined with relatively low energy prices.

In OECD Europe, CO2 emissions from energy use have stayed more or less stable due to changes in economic structures and the energy supply mix, energy savings, implementation of policies and, in some countries, decreases in economic activity over the period.

Overall OECD CO2 emissions have grown at a lower rate than GDP (relative decoupling). This is due to structural changes in industry and energy supply and improvements in energy efficiency in production processes. In about one-third of OECD countries, emissions have decreased absolutely (absolute decoupling) since 2000.

Reductions in national emissions can be achieved by offshoring domestic production and, thus, the related emissions. Evidence of decoupling based on domestic emissions per unit of GDP or per capita, therefore, may reveal only part of the story.

See Annex A for CO2 emissions and decoupling trends.



The emission estimates are affected by the quality of the underlying energy data, but in general the comparability across countries is quite good. The high per GDP emissions of Estonia result from the use of oil shale for electricity generation. Oil shale has a high carbon emission factor. The high per capita emissions of Luxembourg result from the lower taxation of road fuels compared to neighbouring countries, which attracts drivers to refuel in the country.


IEA (2012), CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion 2012, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/co2_fuel-2012-en.

Further information

OECD (2012a), OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050: The Consequences of Inaction, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264122246-en.

OECD (2012b), “Review of the OECD Environmental Strategy for the First Decade of the 21st Century” , OECD, Paris, www.oecd.org/env/50032165.pdf.

OECD (2011), OECD Regions at a Glance 2011, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/reg_glance-2011-en.

WMO, UNEP, OECD and IEA (1996), Revised 1996 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories, IPCC/OECD/IEA, Paris.

Information on data for Israel: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888932315602.

Indicator in PDF Acrobat PDF page

1.2. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from energy use
    Table in Excel

1.6. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emission intensities per capita, 2010 Figure in Excel
Carbon dioxide (CO) emission intensities per capita, 2010
1.7. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emission levels, 2010 Figure in Excel
Carbon dioxide (CO) emission levels, 2010
1.8. Change in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, since 1990 Figure in Excel
Change in carbon dioxide (CO) emissions, since 1990
1.9. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emission intensities per unit of GDP, 2010 Figure in Excel
Carbon dioxide (CO) emission intensities per unit of GDP, 2010
1.10. Change in carbon dioxide (CO2) emission intensities, since 1990 Figure in Excel
Change in carbon dioxide (CO) emission intensities, since 1990