June 8, 2022
Emissions generated anywhere on the planet contribute to global warming. But there are no globally uniform climate policies. Instead, decarbonization policies are made at the national or local level. Countries around the world continue to develop and implement unilateral climate mitigation policies as goods and services flow across national borders. As global trade rises, it is important to assess whether addressing emissions in international trade would drive global decarbonization.
This paper provides an overview of global emissions trends, including the emissions trends of developed and developing countries; the world’s biggest polluters; and small, open economies. The analyses and data in this paper offer useful insights for policymakers who are seeking to develop climate policies that are effective in driving decarbonization at home and abroad.
- It is important to consider both production and consumption activity when assessing a country’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions.
- Developed countries’ total emissions have been relatively flat, while those of developing countries have been growing rapidly.
- Large emitters are typically large economies, and they are not necessarily more carbon-intensive.
- Big polluters have a relatively small portion of their production-based emissions embedded in international trade.
- Policies targeted at big polluters’ exported emissions will have limited impact on their domestic emissions; significant decarbonization will need to be driven by domestic climate policies.
- International trade is still an important factor in global decarbonization as the total amount of emissions embedded in trade is significant.
Photo credit: iStock
Emissions embedded in global trade