Greenhouse gas emissions

Emissions of greenhouses gases (GHG) from human activities disturb the radiative energy balance of the earth's atmosphere system. They exacerbate the natural greenhouse effect, leading to temperature changes and other consequences for the earth’s climate.

Climate change is of concern mainly as regards its impact on ecosystems (biodiversity), human settlements and agriculture, and on the frequency and scale of extreme weather events. It could have significant consequences for human well-being and socio-economic activities.

Definition

Emissions refer to the sum of six GHGs that have direct effects on climate change and are considered responsible for a major part of global warming: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).

They show total gross emissions expressed in CO2 equivalents as well as emission intensities per capita. They refer to GHG emitted within the national territory; CO2 emissions and removals from land use change and forestry are excluded as are international transactions of emission reduction units or certified emission reductions.

Comparability

Data on GHG emissions are reported annually to the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNCCC) with 1990 as a base year but not by all OECD countries. They display a good level of comparability. 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.

The OECD total does not include Israel.

Overview

Emissions of greenhouse gas emissions have been declining in recent years in almost all OECD countries. They fell by almost 5% since 2008 in the OECD area. This is partly due to a slowdown in economic activity following the 2008 economic crisis, but also to a strengthening of climate policies and changing patterns of energy consumption. CO2 remains predominant and determines the overall trend. Together with CH4 and N2O, it accounts for about 98% of GHG emissions. The other gases account for about 2%, but their emissions are growing.

Individual OECD countries’ contributions to the additional greenhouse effect, and their rates of progress, vary significantly. These differences partly reflect different national circumstances, such as composition and rate of economic growth, population growth, energy resource endowment, and the extent to which the countries have taken steps to reduce emissions from various sources.

Sources

Further information

Statistical publications

Methodological publications

Websites

Table. Greenhouse gas emissions

 http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933336230

Greenhouse gas emissions
Tonnes per capita
picture

 http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933335043