The distribution of global greenhouse gas emissions has reached an inflection point: China's emissions exceeded developed nations combined in 2019, a new Rhodium Group analysis concludes.
Why it matters: "The shifting dynamics of global emissions — with China surpassing the developed world for the first time — means that meeting the Paris goals will require significant and rapid action from all countries," Kate Larsen, a director at Rhodium, tells Axios.
The big picture: Rhodium compared China's emissions to nations in the multilateral Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development as of 2019, including all EU members. The chart above shows totals.
- The analysis also showed that on a per-capita basis, China's 2019 emissions were close to the OECD average. The firm expects that the final 2020 data will show China's per-capita emissions exceeded the OECD average.
- Rhodium's Larsen notes China's per-capita rise stems from higher living standards, China's relatively fossil-intensive power mix and its export-focused manufacturing.
What we're watching: The steps China takes — or doesn't — in coming years to breathe life into its pledge to have its emissions peak before 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2060.
By the numbers: China's emissions are over a quarter of the world's total. Their per-capita emissions were over 10 tons of CO2-equivalent in 2019, but that's still far below the world-leading U.S. at 17.6 tons, per Rhodium.
Yes, but: China's emissions look very different when measured on a historical basis.
Why it matters: It helps explain why nations that industrialized first bear such responsibility for tackling warming, even as emissions growth is centered in the Asia-Pacific.
The big picture: "A large share of the CO2 emitted into the atmosphere each year hangs around for hundreds of years. As a result, current global warming is the result of emissions from both the recent and more distant past," Rhodium notes.