CO2 streams and emissions

Global CO2 Emissions categorised by sector

Due to human activities, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased extensively since the Industrial Revolution and has now reached dangerous levels not previously observed in the last three million years. Anthropogenic sources of CO2 emissions are much smaller than natural emissions but have altered the natural balance that existed for many thousands of years before human influence. Human activities such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation are the main cause of increased CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. (Friedlingstein et al., 2020)

Friedlingstein, P., et al., (2020). Global Carbon Budget 2020. Earth System Science Data, 12(4), 3269–3340.

Global CO2 emissions categorised by sector

The largest anthropogenic source of CO2 emissions comes from the burning of fossil fuels. The three types of fossil fuels most used are coal, natural gas, and oil. Coal is responsible for 43% of CO2 emissions from fuel combustion, 36% is produced by oil, and 21% by natural gas (OECD, 2019). For every ton of coal burned, about 2.5 tons of CO2 are produced (de Visser et al., 2008). The three main economic sectors that produce the highest rates of CO2 emissions are the electricity/heat generation sector, transport, and some industrial processes. More specifically, the first two sectors produce almost two-thirds of global CO2 emissions. Electricity generation is the economic sector responsible for 41% of fossil fuel-related CO2 emissions (US EPA, 2015).

de Visser, E. et al., (2008). Dynamis CO2 quality recommendations. International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control, 2(4), 478–84.

OECD. (2019). CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion 2019. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

US EPA. (2015). Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
[Overviews and Factsheets].

Global CO2 emissions categorised by sector (searchable)

The transport sector is the second largest source of anthropogenic CO2 emissions at 23%. Since the 1990s, transport-related emissions have increased rapidly in less than two decades (Wilson, 2015). The data points to one of the most alarming trends in the modern economy. Emissions caused by the transport of people and goods have increased so rapidly that they have overtaken emissions from the industrial sector, which has had a huge impact on climate change (CO2 Emissions from Cars, 2019). Industrial processes account for 4% of CO2 emissions. The industrial sector consists of manufacturing, construction, mining, and agriculture. The most typical example of a CO2-intensive industry is the cement industry. (Andrew, 2019)

Andrew, R. M. (2019). Global CO2 emissions from cement production, 1928–2018. Earth System Science Data, 11(4), 1675–1710.

CO2 emissions from cars: Facts and figures (infographics) | News | European Parliament. (2019, March 22).

Wilson, S. (2015, September 25). Reducing Transport Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Trends and Data 2010.

Global co-emissions per country and sector (searchable)


Houghton, R. A. (2010). How well do we know the flux of CO 2 from land-use change? Tellus B: Chemical and Physical Meteorology, 62(5), 337–351.

Ritchie, H., Roser, M., & Rosado, P. (2020). CO₂ and Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Our World in Data.

The world’s highest per capita CO2 emitters are the main oil-producing countries, particularly those with small populations. The majority are in the Middle East: Qatar had the most emissions per person in 2017, at 49 tonnes (t), followed by Trinidad and Tobago (30t), Kuwait (25t), the United Arab Emirates (25t), and Saudi Arabia (19t). However, because many of the main oil producers have a tiny population, their overall yearly emissions are minimal. The United States, Australia, and Canada are more populated countries with some of the greatest per capita emissions – and hence high overall emissions. Australia has a per capita footprint of 17 tonnes, followed by the United States (16.2 tonnes) and Canada (16 tonnes). European nations’ emissions are comparable to the world average: In 2017, emissions in Portugal were 5.3 tonnes, 5.5 tonnes in France, and 5.8 tonnes per person in the United Kingdom. This is also far lower than some of their neighbors with comparable living conditions, such as Germany, the Netherlands, or Belgium. The choice of energy sources is critical here: in the United Kingdom, Portugal, and France, a far larger proportion of power is generated from nuclear and renewable sources. Although wealth is the main driver of CO2 emissions, policy and technical decisions obviously make a difference (Ritchie et al., 2020). The negative emission in the charts comes from the forestry domain. Trees act as carbon sinks. They remove CO2 from the atmosphere through the process of photosynthesis. When forests are destroyed to create farms or pastures, trees are cut down and either burned or left to rot, which adds CO2 to the atmosphere. (Houghton, 2010)


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