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CO2 emissions by fuel

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from energy and material production can arise from various sources and fuel type: coal, oil, gas, cement production and gas flaring.

As global and national energy systems have transitioned over centuries and decades, the contribution of different fuel sources to CO2 emissions has changed both geographically and temporally.

In this article we look at the breakdown of CO2 emissions by fuel type, looking at the largest emitters of the past; the largest emitters today; and how these compare when we look at per capita adjustments.

Coal, oil, gas, cement: where do CO2 emissions come from?

Carbon dioxide emissions associated with energy and industrial production can come from a range of fuel types. The contribution of each of these sources has changed significantly through time, and still shows large differences by region. In the chart we see the absolute and relative contribution of CO2 emissions by source, differentiated between coal, gas, oil, flaring, and cement production.

At a global level we see that early industrialisation was dominated by the use of solid fuel—this is best observed by switching to the ‘relative’ view in the chart.

Coal-fired power at an industrial-scale was the first to emerge in Europe and North America during the 1700s. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that we begin to see a growth in emissions from oil and gas production. Another century passed before emissions from flaring and cement production began.

In the present day, solid and liquid fuel dominate, although contributions from gas production are also notable. Cement and flaring at the global level remain comparably small.

The trends vary significantly by region. Overall patterns across Europe and North America are similar: early industrialisation began through solid fuel consumption, however, through time this energy mix has diversified. Today, CO2 emissions are spread fairly equally between coal, oil and gas. In contrast, Latin America and the Caribbean’s emissions have historically been and remain a product of liquid fuel—even in the early stages of development coal consumption was small.1

 Asia’s energy remains dominant in solid fuel consumption, and has notably higher cement contributions relative to other regions.2

 Africa also has more notable emissions from cement and flaring; however, its key sources of emissions are a diverse mix between solid, liquid and gas.

Per capita: How do coal, oil, gas and cement emissions compare?

Total emissions from different sources – coal, oil, gas and cement – largely reflect the population of a given country.

How do these figures compare when we look at them on a per capita basis? This chart shows per capita CO2 emissions from coal, oil, gas, flaring and cement, measured in tonnes of CO2 per year.

The distribution across different fuel sources is very dependent on energy production and mix in a given country. In the US or the UK, for example, oil followed by gas are the largest contributors. In China and India, coal is much more dominant. In Russia, it’s gas.

How you can interact with this chart

  • On these charts you see the button Change Country in the bottom left corner – with this option you can switch the chart to any other country in the world.
  • If you drag the blue time-slider you will see the bar chart transform into a line chart, and show the change over time.

Annual CO2 emissions from coal

Which countries are the largest CO2 emitters from coal production?

This interactive shows annual emissions from coal production by country, over time.

What becomes clear when we look across countries is how coal production has shifted over time. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, coal production was dominant across countries in Europe (predominantly the UK) and the United States. However, energy transitions in these countries have resulted in significant declines in recent decades.

Emissions from coal have since shifted elsewhere: in recent decades we have seen a rapid rise in emissions from industrializing economies such as China, India and South Africa.

Two tips on how you can interact with this chart

  • Add any other country to this chart: click on the Add country button to compare with any other country.
  • View this data on a world map: switch to a global map of confirmed deaths using the ‘MAP’ tab at the bottom of the chart.

Per capita CO2 emissions from coal

How do emissions from coal compare when we adjust for population?

This interactive chart shows per capita CO2 emissions from coal, measured in tonnes per person per year.

Annual CO2 emissions from oil

Which countries are the largest CO2 emitters from oil?

This interactive shows annual emissions from oil by country, over time.

Two tips on how you can interact with this chart

  • Add any other country to this chart: click on the Add country button to compare with any other country.
  • View this data on a world map: switch to a global map of confirmed deaths using the ‘MAP’ tab at the bottom of the chart.

Per capita CO2 emissions from oil

How do emissions from oil compare when we adjust for population?

This interactive chart shows per capita CO2 emissions from oil, measured in tonnes per person per year.

Annual CO2 emissions from gas

Which countries are the largest CO2 emitters from gas?

This interactive shows annual emissions from gas by country, over time.

Two tips on how you can interact with this chart

  • Add any other country to this chart: click on the Add country button to compare with any other country.
  • View this data on a world map: switch to a global map of confirmed deaths using the ‘MAP’ tab at the bottom of the chart.

Per capita CO2 emissions from gas

How do emissions from gas compare when we adjust for population?

This interactive chart shows per capita CO2 emissions from gas, measured in tonnes per person per year.

Emissions from cement production

In this section

Annual CO2 emissions from cement

Which countries are the largest CO2 emitters from cement production?

This interactive shows annual emissions from cement production by country, over time.

Two tips on how you can interact with this chart

  • Add any other country to this chart: click on the Add country button to compare with any other country.
  • View this data on a world map: switch to a global map of confirmed deaths using the ‘MAP’ tab at the bottom of the chart.

Per capita CO2 emissions from cement

How do emissions from cement production compare when we adjust for population?

This interactive chart shows per capita CO2 emissions from cement production, measured in tonnes per person per year.

Annual CO2 emissions from gas flaring

Which countries are the largest CO2 emitters from gas flaring?

This interactive shows annual emissions from gas flaring by country, over time.

What is gas flaring?

Gas flaring is the burning of natural gas, often on oil or gas extraction sites.

Gas can be produced as by-product during oil extraction and refining. If there are no on-site uses for the gas, refineries can either inject it back into the ground, let it vent to the atmosphere, or burn (i.e. flare) it. This flaring process produces greenhouse gas emissions.

Per capita CO2 emissions from gas flaring

How do emissions from gas flaring compare when we adjust for population?

This interactive chart shows per capita CO2 emissions from gas flaring, measured in tonnes per person per year.