China has always had a bad reputation as the world’s worst polluter, but it seems that we might have been slightly unfair in our opinion – A recent announcement states that China’s actual carbon emissions could be as much as 14% lower than originally thought. In light of this, we’re taking a look at the world’s main carbon emissions culprits, and more importantly, the reason behind the rankings.

Whether China has been unfairly tarnished or not, it still remains the world’s leading polluter with a responsibility to act on climate change, that much is true. However, this is not an entirely fair assessment as China also has the largest population in the world. Through analysing emissions per capita data rather than total emissions per nation, we see a more accurate picture.

Perhaps surprisingly, the small Caribbean island of Montserrat comes in first with a whopping 117.827 tons of CO2 per person (2013 actual figures, EDGAR), which is almost 80 tons ahead of the next country. This is an unbelievable amount, but can be forgiven when we remember that it is attributed to Montserrat’s volcano, whose gaseous emissions are made up in large part by carbon dioxide.

Qatar regularly tops the table as one of the world’s least energy efficient countries and one of the biggest global consumers of water. Qatar’s heavily subsidised energy may be to blame for this high usage figure. To quote National Geographic: “According to the Living Planet Report… if every human being lived like the average Qatari, the Earth would need nearly five times more resources than it has” – terrifying!

Next up is Trinidad and Tobago, due to the nation’s industrial nature – Petrochemical and power generation represent 80% of its emissions.

Topping the western list is Luxembourg, which has had difficulty coping with its rapid population growth, and still relies heavily on oil and gas imports, followed swiftly by Australia. Australia is having huge issues reducing its carbon emissions at the rate of other developed nations like the US or the European Union. Over the past few years, it emissions have stabilised, but it is said that Australia’s climate change debate is ‘all talk, no action’. The US follows Australia as the next western country with the highest emissions per capita in 10th place overall.

The figures might look depressing, but these countries all have one thing in common: they are all working towards a greener future to some degree. Qatar is developing its solar capacity, Trinidad and Tobago has a green energy framework in place to limit carbon emissions and Luxembourg continues to invest in hydro, wind and biomass. Each country is doing what it can, but there is more that each can do if they look to the root of the problem.

The root of the problem in Western Europe, thanks to our wonderful climate, is heating. In the UK, it represents the largest single use of energy  and contributes 32% of carbon dioxide emissions. Knowing this, changing our relationship with heating is the only way that we can control each country’s carbon emissions.

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