GHG Emissions Worldwide: Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

published on 13 December 2023

With climate change being an urgent issue, most would agree that understanding and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions worldwide is crucial.

By examining key details around global GHG emissions and reduction strategies, businesses can gain clarity on how to accurately measure, report on, and lower their carbon footprint.

In this article, we will analyse worldwide GHG emissions data, identify top contributing countries and sectors, and discover practical steps organisations can take to set emissions targets and verifiably reduce their environmental impact through renewable energy, supply chain optimisation, and more.

The Growing Impact of GHG Emissions

GHG emissions worldwide continue rising, contributing to climate change. This article provides SMEs clear guidance on measuring and reducing their carbon footprint through SaaS tools.

Examining the Trajectory of GHG Emissions Worldwide by Year

According to the latest data, global GHG emissions reached 51.5 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2019, an increase from 50.8 billion tonnes in 2018. This rise marks a continuation of a decades-long trend of escalating emissions, with 2021 expected to see the second-highest annual GHG emissions on record.

The primary drivers fueling this growth are energy production, manufacturing, transportation, and land use changes like deforestation. Developing nations in particular are ramping up economic activity linked to fossil fuel usage. However, even many advanced economies are lagging behind emission reduction targets.

The uptick in recent CO2 emissions underscores the immense, but not insurmountable, challenge in reversing emission trajectories worldwide.

Connecting GHG Emissions to Climate Impact

Rising GHG emissions translate directly into tangible climate impacts, including more extreme weather events. The past several years saw some of the hottest temperatures ever recorded globally, extended droughts, severe flooding, and raging wildfires.

Climate researchers confirm human-caused GHG emissions are the predominant factor driving climate change currently and warn that exceeding 1.5°C of warming could trigger irreversible, catastrophic shifts. That’s why the latest IPCC emissions report urges rapid, economy-wide decarbonisation.

For businesses, this means measuring and reducing their carbon footprint is imperative. SaaS solutions deliver the accuracy and automation needed to seamlessly manage GHG emissions amid growing climate urgency.

How much greenhouse gas is emitted globally?

Global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions continue to rise each year. According to the Global Carbon Project, worldwide emissions reached over 37 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) in 2022 - yet another record high.

With global GDP predicted to grow 3.1% from 2022-2023, GHG emissions are expected to increase as well. Preliminary estimates indicate CO2 emissions rose 1.1% in 2023 to 37.55 billion metric tons. This upward trend demonstrates the pressing need for urgent climate action if we hope to curb emissions growth.

Behind these daunting global emissions figures lies a complex web of sources and sectors. The three largest contributors are:

  • Electricity & Heat Production (31% of 2022 emissions)
  • Manufacturing & Construction (24%)
  • Transportation (16%)

Clearly, power generation and industry processes account for over half of all emissions worldwide.

However, within these sectors, patterns emerge at a regional level. For example, transportation makes up a larger share of emissions in developed regions like North America and Europe. Whereas developing nations in Asia rely more heavily on coal for electricity and steel manufacturing.

As the climate crisis intensifies, understanding GHG emission sources provides Direction towards impactful interventions. SMEs have an important role to play through improving energy efficiency, electrifying processes, using cleaner fuels, and more. Emission tracking tools like EcoHedge software equip companies to measure then manage their carbon footprint.

With a coordinated effort, the 37+ billion tonne figure could soon plateau and decline. But the window for achieving net zero is fast closing - 2030 remains the key target. The latest emissions data is a sobering reminder that bolder climate action can no longer be delayed.

Which country has the highest GHG emissions?

For a fair comparison of GHG emissions between countries, per capita emissions should be analysed rather than total national emissions. This accounts for differences in population size.

When measured in terms of metric tons of CO2 equivalent per capita, some of the highest emitting countries in 2023 include:

  • Qatar: 37.3
  • Trinidad and Tobago: 25.7
  • Kuwait: 23.9
  • Brunei: 18.5
  • Bahrain: 18.3

China has significantly increased its total national emissions over time due to its large population and rapid development. However, its per capita emissions remain moderately low at approximately 8 metric tons per person.

The above data demonstrates the importance of standardising GHG emissions for accurate cross-country comparisons. Per capita emissions more effectively highlight the true environmental impact of each country's policies and development path.

What percentage of global GHG emissions are by country?

China is the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, accounting for over 26% of total global emissions. The United States comes in second, contributing around 12.5% of worldwide GHG emissions.

After China and the U.S., India makes up the third largest share at 7.06%, followed closely by the European Union at 7.03%. Other major contributors are Russia, Japan, Brazil, Indonesia, Iran, and Canada.

Most of the top 10 emitting countries actually have higher emissions per capita than the global average of 6.27 metric tons of CO2 equivalent per person. The U.S. has over double the world average at 16.11 tCO2e per capita. Canada and Australia also have relatively high per capita emissions above 15 tCO2e per person.

Transitioning to renewable energy and enhancing energy efficiency can help rein in emissions substantially across the highest emitting nations. Tools like the EcoHedge platform provide the monitoring and measurement capabilities to understand emissions at a granular level across facilities and operations. This establishes the foundation for targeted mitigation strategies tailored to each country's economic structure and policy landscape.

What is the largest contributor to GHG emissions?

GHG emissions worldwide are primarily driven by the burning of fossil fuels. Fossil fuel combustion accounted for over 75% of total global greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, making it by far the largest contributor.

The top three fossil fuels responsible for GHG emissions are:

  • Coal - Coal combustion represented 30% of CO2 emissions from fuel combustion in 2019. Coal is commonly used in power generation and industrial processes. Countries like China, India, and the United States are among the highest coal CO2 emitters.
  • Oil - Oil accounted for 34% share of global CO2 emissions from fuel combustion. Transportation is the major source of oil emissions.
  • Natural gas - Natural gas combustion contributed 22% of emissions in 2019. It is used for power, heating, cooking, and industrial processes.

Transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources is critical for net zero emissions targets. Software tools like EcoHedge can help businesses track emissions from energy use and identify reduction opportunities.


Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Sector

Assessing GHG emissions by dissecting the primary contributing sectors, using insights from the IPCC emissions by sector reports.

Energy Production's Role in GHG Emissions

The energy sector is responsible for a large share of global GHG emissions worldwide each year. According to the IPCC, the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas for electricity and heat production accounted for over 30% of total emissions in 2010. With the rising demand for energy worldwide, emissions from this sector are increasing substantially with each passing year.

Some key facts regarding the energy sector's impact include:

  • In 2020, the global energy sector accounted for close to 75% of GHG emissions worldwide by year.
  • Coal accounts for close to 40% of CO2 emissions from energy production, with over 10 billion metric tons released annually.
  • CO2 emissions 2023 are projected to rise with increased dependence on fossil fuels to meet growing energy needs, especially in Asian markets.

There are two approaches to mitigate emissions from power generation and heat production:

  • Transitioning to renewable energy sources - solar, wind, hydro, etc. Renewables like solar and wind already account for almost 30% of global power capacity as per IRENA.
  • Improving energy efficiency by upgrading infrastructure and adopting high-efficiency systems and processes. The IEA estimates efficiency gains could deliver over 40% of required emissions reductions by 2040.

Companies can utilise automated software tools like EcoHedge to track energy usage and model the impact of energy conservation and renewable energy projects on emissions and costs.

Agriculture and Forestry's Environmental Footprint

The agriculture, forestry and land use sector is responsible for up to 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions by sector, making it a key source of climate warming gases like methane and nitrous oxide.

Some key facts regarding the impact of agriculture and forestry include:

  • According to the latest data from the World Animal Foundation, 17% of all Greenhouse Gas Emissions are attributed to animal agriculture.
  • Annual net CO2 emissions from agriculture and land-use change in non-OECD countries are projected to rise from 5 gigatonnes in 2015 to nearly 9 gigatonnes in 2050 (OECD).
  • The top five greenhouse gas emissions by country 2023 in this sector are Brazil, Indonesia, China, Mexico and India - largely driven by deforestation, livestock and rice cultivation.

Strategies to reduce emissions from agriculture and forestry include:

  • Promoting climate-smart agriculture through improved crop management, reduced deforestation, and silvopastoral practices.
  • Shifting diets towards plant proteins and sustainably produced foods to lower environmental footprint.
  • Paying farmers and landowners for ecosystem services like carbon sequestration and watershed protection.

SMEs can utilise software solutions like EcoHedge to model how changes in business practices and land management impact total footprint and identify priority areas for intervention.

Measuring Your Company's Carbon Footprint

The first step for SMEs is accurately calculating total GHG emissions using SaaS tools for automated data collection and analytics.

Assessing your company’s carbon footprint provides visibility into emissions sources, enabling strategies targeting reductions aligned with climate goals.

Identifying and Categorising Sources of Emissions

Consider direct and indirect emissions from all company activities, including but not limited to:

  • Energy usage - Electricity, heating, cooling, lighting in offices and remote worksites
  • Business travel - Flights, hotel stays, ground transportation like company cars
  • Procurement - Raw materials, packaging, office supplies, food & beverages
  • Waste management - Paper, plastics, electronics disposal and recycling activities
  • Leased assets - Emissions from external assets you lease like buildings or vehicles

Categorising emission sources by type and origin allows focusing reduction plans most effectively per Greenhouse Gas Protocol standard scopes:

  • Scope 1 - Direct emissions from sources owned or controlled by the company. This includes fuel combustion, company vehicles, and fugitive refrigerants.
  • Scope 2 - Indirect emissions from purchased electricity/steam used in owned/controlled equipment.
  • Scope 3 - All other indirect emissions occurring across the value chain like business travel, waste, and procurement.

Getting granular visibility empowers strategic emission reductions aligned with net zero climate commitments.

Leveraging SaaS for Precision in GHG Reporting

Cloud-based carbon accounting systems efficiently collect and analyse emissions data for accuracy, aiding the formulation of reduction strategies.

Setting an Emissions Reduction Target

With a baseline calculated, SMEs can define a concrete, time-bound target to lower total GHG emissions, contributing to global efforts.

Determining a Realistic and Impactful Goal

Reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is a key step for businesses seeking to mitigate their impact on climate change. According to the latest IPCC report, global GHG emissions need to be cut nearly in half by 2030 to limit warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. While this may seem daunting, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can contribute by setting their own emissions reductions goals.

When defining a target, SMEs should consider:

  • Current emissions levels: Establish a recent emissions baseline for your company using a carbon accounting tool like EcoHedge. This will identify the largest sources to focus reduction efforts.
  • Financial factors: Assess potential costs of implementing emissions-lowering initiatives compared to future cost savings. Government incentives like tax credits can offset expenses.
  • Operational changes: Determine what business process changes are realistic to reduce your company's carbon footprint. This could involve improving energy efficiency, limiting travel, or altering materials sourcing and transportation. Prioritize actions with the highest abatement potential.
  • Industry benchmarks: Review emissions targets set by competitors and industry associations. While these can provide guidelines, your company's goal should align with its unique operations and climate impact.
  • Stakeholder expectations: Account for increasing demands from investors, customers, and employees to demonstrate carbon mitigation commitments when defining targets. More ambitious goals signal climate leadership.

With these considerations in mind, SMEs should define time-bound emissions reductions targets that balance ambition with achievability over 5-10 years. For example, Company X could commit to lowering total scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions 50% by 2030 from a 2022 baseline. Pair this long-term target with interim milestones every 1-2 years. This drives urgency while allowing flexibility to adapt strategies over time. Demonstrating incremental progress builds confidence both internally and externally.

Building a Culture of Sustainability

Beyond setting emissions goals, creating a culture centered on sustainability is key to engaging all employees in climate action. Leadership plays a pivotal role through:

  • Establishing a shared vision: Rally the company around a sustainability vision connected to clear emissions targets. Ensure it aligns with broader values.
  • Leading by example: Manager commitment to sustainability efforts signals importance to staff. Actions like limiting travel, adjusting procurement policies, and installing EV charging stations are impactful.
  • Empowering 'Green Teams': Support employee-led sustainability committees to brainstorm and implement creative carbon-lowering solutions tailored to business units.
  • Tying bonuses to climate metrics: Incentivise emissions reductions by incorporating progress on targets into staff performance assessments and compensation.
  • Communicating achievements: Highlight sustainability accomplishments in company meetings, newsletters, intranet portals, and during onboarding. Storytelling fosters pride.
  • Providing training: Build employee climate change literacy through lunch-and-learns, workshops, and digital learning. Awareness of environmental issues drives engagement.

With staffers actively contributing to an organisation’s sustainability vision, the innovative ideas and passion generated make reaching emissions goals more achievable. Software tools like EcoHedge enable easy monitoring and reporting on target progress to keep teams motivated and focused. The path to net zero requires collective effort!

Implementing Impactful GHG Reduction Strategies

Reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is a crucial step for businesses seeking to minimise their environmental impact. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) may find this process challenging due to limited resources, but adopting carbon accounting tools like EcoHedge can simplify emissions tracking and unlock impactful carbon reduction strategies.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global GHG emissions continue rising each year - up to 59.1 gigatons of CO2 equivalent in 2019. With SMEs collectively responsible for a sizable portion of emissions, swift collective action is imperative. By measuring their carbon footprint and identifying "hot spots", SMEs can target high-emission areas and significantly cut emissions through tactical changes.

Investing in Renewable Energy Solutions

Transitioning operations to renewable energy constitutes one of the most effective tactics for SMEs aiming to curb GHG emissions.xiong

Conventional energy sources like coal and natural gas account for over 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Shifting to zero-emission renewables like solar, wind or hydropower can therefore drastically reduce an SME's carbon footprint. EcoHedge's automated emissions calculations simplify this transition by providing real-time tracking of emission reductions.

Solar panels alone enabled SMEs to reduce upto 20,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent in 2021. With rapidly falling prices, solar and wind electricity costs a fraction of conventional sources in most markets now. Government incentives like investment tax credits (ITCs) further sweeten renewable energy investments for SMEs in the USA and Europe.

Switching to renewable energy delivers tangible business advantages too - lower and predictable electricity bills and improved branding for attracting eco-conscious talent and customers. Emissions and cost savings also directly boost bottom lines. EcoHedge software seamlessly integrates these financial upsides into custom carbon accounting reports for SME leadership.

Optimising Supply Chain for Lower Emissions

Supply chain activities constitute over 75% of emissions for most SMEs as per Carbon Trust. Optimising logistics and sourcing therefore offers tremendous GHG reduction potential.

Localising supply chains is an accessible starting point to cut transport-related emissions. Transitioning from air freight to lower-emission sea or rail cargo options reduces supply chain emissions even further. SMEs can additionally prioritize suppliers with internal carbon reduction initiatives or eco-friendly practices.

Sourcing low-carbon raw materials and incorporating circular economy principles into product design also minimises emissions over the lifecycle. EcoHedge software readily calculates these supply chain emission savings based on user-inputs. Granular visibility further aids in benchmarking supplier sustainability performances for continuous optimisations.

Embracing these supply chain focused tactics in conjunction with renewable energy investments enables SME leadership to develop holistic roadmaps for reaching ambitious emission reduction targets. EcoHedge's automated carbon accounting dashboard simplifies this goal-setting and tracking process.

Verifying Progress Through Ongoing Tracking

SMEs can utilise continuous monitoring through SaaS platforms to ensure their GHG reduction initiatives align with their targets.

Automated Data Collection and Real-Time Monitoring

Reducing worldwide GHG emissions requires ongoing tracking to ensure progress. Cloud-based solutions like EcoHedge provide automated data collection and real-time monitoring of emissions over time. This allows companies to instantly see if they are meeting reduction targets or deviating in some area that requires attention.

The software seamlessly gathers emissions data from multiple sources across the organisation. It then applies the latest emissions factors and carbon accounting methodologies to generate real-time insights. Teams can set up customisable alerts and notifications for when emissions reach certain thresholds. This real-time transparency and granular tracking facilitates rapid decision making to get initiatives back on track.

For example, if an organisation sees their scope 2 emissions suddenly spike over a month, they can quickly investigate the cause - maybe a new supplier came online with higher grid intensity factors. Stakeholders are also kept continuously updated through automatically generated reports tailored to their interests. This simplifies progress reporting and provides proof of accountability.

Overall, automated tracking brings accuracy, speed, and transparency to the GHG reduction process for SMEs. Software eliminates manual data gathering and complex calculations to provide the real emissions picture in an instant.

Embracing Transparency in Progress Reporting

Transparently communicating progress builds trust and accountability with both internal and external sustainability stakeholders. Software solutions can automatically generate tailored reports to update different groups on emission reductions.

For employees, real-time dashboards foster motivation by displaying how current initiatives translate to lower GHG impact over time. Reports for leadership showcase performance against targets and how sustainability drives cost savings. In investor documents or website pages, interactive charts demonstrate accountability and build brand reputation.

Structured progress reporting is also essential for compliance. Automated audit trails, data backups, and documentation simplify preparing for emissions verification or environmental audits.

Ultimately, by centralising emissions data and results in one place, SMEs can efficiently report updates through trustworthy statistics. This transparency empowers stakeholders to provide input and course-correct efforts if needed. It also proves the seriousness with which the organisation takes its ambition to reduce worldwide GHG emissions each year.

Credibly Communicating Your Commitment

As a small-to-medium enterprise (SME), effectively communicating your company's commitment to sustainability and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction is crucial for positioning your business as a leader in the space. By integrating best practices from corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability reporting into your communications strategy, SMEs can clearly convey their GHG inventory, reduction initiatives, and positive impacts to key stakeholders.

Integrating CSR and Sustainability Reporting Best Practices

When drafting sustainability reports and communications for stakeholders, it is important to follow recognised guidelines and standards. Frameworks like the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) provide best practices for disclosing non-financial impacts in areas like emissions, energy, waste management and more.

By integrating key GRI principles into reports and websites, SMEs can build trust and transparency around often complex sustainability initiatives. Some best practices include:

  • Conducting annual GHG inventories to quantify, track and benchmark emissions over time
  • Setting science-based targets for reducing emissions in line with climate goals
  • Breaking down emissions by source or business unit to showcase progress
  • Highlighting specific reduction projects and their impacts
  • Providing context around emissions with intensity metrics (emissions per unit of activity)
  • Committing to third-party verification for improved credibility

Following these types of structured frameworks lends credibility and allows SMEs to compellingly communicate their sustainability commitments to customers, investors and the public.

Engaging with Global Reporting Initiatives

Beyond integrating best practices into internal communications, SMEs can further validate their GHG reduction efforts by engaging with recognised global reporting platforms like:

  • CDP: A not-for-profit that runs a global disclosure platform for companies to manage environmental impacts like climate change, water security and deforestation.
  • Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi): Enables companies to set emissions reduction targets consistent with climate science. Over 2,000 companies have approved science-based targets.
  • UN Global Compact: A leadership platform for aligning strategies with universal principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. Over 15,000 companies participate.

These initiatives provide frameworks for benchmarking and validating sustainability efforts on a global scale. By disclosing through CDP, having approved science-based targets with SBTi or becoming a Global Compact member, SMEs can showcase their commitment to stakeholders. Initiatives also enable companies to identify areas for improving performance.

In summary, by integrating best practices from reputable reporting frameworks, and participating in recognised global disclosure platforms, SMEs can effectively and credibly communicate their sustainability achievements. This transparency and validation builds trust with stakeholders while positioning small businesses as leaders in ethical, low-emissions operations.

Conclusion: Charting a Course for Sustainable Business

SMEs can play a pivotal role in reducing GHG emissions worldwide by leveraging SaaS solutions to drive strategic climate action.

Synthesising the Path to Lower Emissions

A recap of the essential strategies and tools that SMEs can adopt to measure, report, and reduce their carbon footprint effectively.

Measuring and reporting GHG emissions is the critical first step for SMEs seeking to reduce their carbon footprint. By leveraging user-friendly SaaS tools like EcoHedge Express, companies can automate the accounting of scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions based on business activities. This eliminates manual processes and provides accurate, real-time tracking aligned to global protocols.

Once a sustainability baseline is established, SMEs can engage stakeholders through tailored reports and interactive dashboards from solutions such as EcoHedge Engage. By showcasing progress in reducing energy usage, waste generation, supply chain impacts, and more, companies can enlist employees, investors, and customers in their climate journey.

Finally, leveraging lifecycle analysis consulting with 3rd parties like EcoHedge’s Lifecycle Consulting empowers data-driven strategies to minimise GHG emissions at the product level. SMEs can simulate the impact of different scenarios on their product.

By taking advantage of the latest SaaS innovations for environmental accounting, reporting and planning, small and medium businesses can profitably align to global climate goals, gaining stakeholder trust and a competitive edge while reducing GHG emissions worldwide.

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