The Global South’s contribution to the climate crisis – and its potential solutions

By Harald Fuhr, Professor of International Politics at the University of Potsdam, Germany

DEVELOPMENT-MATTERS-emissionsGlobal CO2 emissions in 2017 totalled some 36.2 gigatonnes (Gt), of which the Global South1 emitted some 21 Gt CO2 or 58%. In the same year, the Global North (including Russia) emitted some 13.7 Gt and contributed to some 38% of global emissions. The remaining 4% are mostly emissions from shipping and aviation (international bunkers).

CO2 emissions in the Global South are heavily concentrated. The top 10 countries of the South contribute some 78% of the group’s emissions (see Table 1). With some 9.8 Gt CO2, China is by far the world’s biggest emitter. In 2017, it emitted more than the US (5.3 Gt CO2) and the EU-28 (3.5 Gt CO2) combined. Just two countries, China and India, are responsible for almost 60% of the Global South’s emissions, followed by other countries in the range of only 2-3% each. In 2017, 56 upper middle-income countries contributed to 46% of global emissions, while 34 low-income countries, most of them in Sub-Sahara Africa, contributed to only 1% of the total. Despite the fact that the latter group hardly contributes to global warming, its countries are likely to be the ones most severely affected by extreme weather events.
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