Greenhouse Gases and Primary Sources
The main contributing gases with poisonous effects on the environment, classified as the Greenhouse Gases are:
- Carbon Dioxide: CO2 is emitted due to activities such as deforestation, degradation of soil, land clearing for agricultural purposes etc. However, the primary source of CO2 emission is fossil fuel consumption.
- Methane: Energy consumption, management of waste and agricultural activities all lead to CH4 emissions.
- Fluorinated Gases: Refrigeration, industrial processes and manufacturing release harmful fluorinated gases into the environment.
- Black carbon or aerosol formed through the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biomass & bio-fuel has harmful effects on human health.
Primary Sources of Greenhouse Gas emissions all over the world are:
- Electricity Production (Energy Consumption): the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions is generated by electricity production through burning fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas.
- Industrial Activities: greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuel for industrial purposes such as producing goods from raw materials, or emissions from certain chemical reactions necessary for production in some cases.
- Transportation: Use of transportation such as cars, trucks/buses, ships, trains, planes. Over 90% of the fuel used for transportation is petroleum based including diesel and gasoline.
- Agriculture: Use of fertilisers and pesticides lead to greenhouse emissions as well. Rice production, livestock and agricultural soil are some of the other contributors.
- Increasing Land Use & Deforestation: Urbanisation is resulting in more trees being cut down making land an emitter when instead, forests and land if managed properly can absorb more CO2 from the air than they emit.
- Residential Activities: GHGs can be generated through refrigeration, which is used in almost every home. Handling and management of waste also contributes to the emissions.
Emissions by Sector
According to the Fifth Assessment Report by IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), the energy sector, including electricity and heat production contributes to about 35% of global emissions.
Since the Paris Agreement came into force in November 2016, much has been done by the member countries to put efforts to fight climate change in place. Out of 197 parties to the earlier held convention, 148 countries have ratified or joined the Paris Agreement which accounts for more than 80% of total emissions. Several countries since then are developing or have developed long-term plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale.
Emissions by Country
Let’s look at present top emitters in the world and a brief of the pledge they have undertaken in lieu of the Paris Agreement.
China contributes the most towards global emissions. It has pledged to source 20% of its energy from low-carbon sources by 2030 thereby cutting emissions per unit GDP by 60-65% from its 2005 levels.
The United States of America has plans to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The pledge submitted by the US earlier included domestic reduction of greenhouse gases by 26-28% by 2025 (from its 2005 levels).
EU has pledged to reduce domestic greenhouse gases by at least 40% from its 1990 levels by 2030.
India has pledged to reduce emissions by 33-35% from its 2005 levels. Another target includes achieving 40% of overall electricity from non-fossil fuel based resources or renewable resources by 2030.
Brazil aims to reduce emissions by 37% from its 2005 levels by 2025.
The Russian pledge includes 25-30% reduction in greenhouse gases from its 1990 levels by 2030. It also includes maximum justification of the land sector.
Japan aims to reduce 2013 emission levels by 26% by 2030.
Absolute Vs Per Capita Emissions
Historically, developed countries have lead the list of top emitters, However, recent data shows us that developing countries now dominate the list. For example, China, India, Brazil, Indonesia and many others contribute large shares to global emission levels. Absolute emissions are driven by population and size of the economy. This also indicates that these countries have the financial capability and human capacity to bring down their absolute emission levels.
On the other hand, per capita emissions are distributed unequally across the globe. Per capita emissions are considered to calculate the amount of emissions per person in a given country. According to per capita emissions, USA, Canada and Russia are the largest contributors emitting more than double the global average per person.
An international agreement cannot be effective unless substantial efforts are made and actions are taken from the top emitters. Now that America is withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, world’s largest economy and the largest per capita emitter will not participate in any international policies to limit global emissions and will not contribute to the UN Green Climate Fund which is largely devoted to helping world’s poor countries to adapt better to the Paris Agreement.