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The US is the biggest carbon emitter in history. Where do other nations stand?

Anna M. Phillips, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Leaders in Brussels have said they view the bloc's transition away from fossil fuels as key to boosting Europe's post-pandemic economy. Yet environmentalists maintain that the EU's pledge is insufficient. An analysis by Climate Action Tracker, an independent group that evaluates global climate goals, estimates that the bloc's current policies put it on a path to reduce its overall emissions by about 48% by 2030.


Persuading India to increase its climate goal is likely to be a major challenge for the Biden administration. The country is the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter, after China and the United States, but it has yet to announce a new climate pledge for 2030, and it has historically been reluctant to commit to carbon emission reductions.

Leading up to the 2015 Paris agreement, India refused to agree to an absolute reduction in CO2 emissions. Instead, its leaders said the country needed to burn more coal to fuel its growing economy and lift millions of people out of poverty. Emissions would increase, they vowed, but at a slower rate than before.

In the years since Paris, India has slowed the expansion of coal-fired power plants — no new plants were built last year— and it has begun to embrace solar and wind power. Its government has pledged to generate 450 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2030, five times its current capacity. But India's leaders still encourage coal mining and have argued against setting a tougher emissions goal.



In the early 2000s, Japan made significant progress in reducing its emissions by embracing nuclear power. That changed in 2011 after a massive earthquake and tsunami caused a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, forcing the country to all but end its nuclear power program.

So Japan turned to coal. Today, the country is heavily dependent on fossil fuels and is one of the top three public funders of coal-fired power plants globally. It is also the world's fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

But domestic and international pressure in recent years has begun to push the county in a different direction.

Last year, Japan announced that it would be carbon-neutral by 2020 and would reduce its reliance on coal. Heading into the U.S. climate summit, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has been discussing new limitations on coal financing and may announce a more ambitious emissions target than the 26% reduction below 2013 levels it agreed TO IN 2015.


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