Can we say that “France emits less than 1% of the world’s CO2”? –

France emits far less than 1% of the world’s CO2…

If we divide the 56.4 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent (which aggregates all greenhouse gases) emitted globally in 2019 by the 441 million tonnes released by France in the same year, we arrive at 0.78% of the total. For CO2 alone, essentially linked to fossil fuels, this figure rises to 0.9%.

… Just like almost every country in the world

There are dozens and dozens of countries that emit less than 1% of the world’s CO2. Barring a handful of giants, nearly every country in the world emits less than 2%, as this chart from Our World shows.

Territorial emissions by country © Our world in data

Even the French population is less than 1% of the total

In terms of population, France (and its 67.8 million inhabitants) represents 0.84% ​​of the 8 billion people. So, summing up, France accounts for between 0.8% and 0.9% of emissions, like the world population. At this stage, it is already difficult to use this argument to elevate France to the top of the class.

This figure does not take into account imported emissions or carbon footprint

This figure of “less than 1%” only covers territorial emissions, i.e. greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere as part of activities carried out on French soil. But there is a much more relevant figure: that of the carbon footprint, which adds the emissions linked to imported products (and subtracts CO2 from exports). In this case it is no longer 441, but 663 million tons of CO2 equivalent emitted in 2019. We arrive at 1.17% of the world total.

Territorial emissions and carbon footprint of France since 1990 © Haut conseil pour le climat

If we take only territorial emissions into account, we add to China’s carbon footprint all the manufactured products we buy from it. It’s a bit big, isn’t it?

What matters is the per capita carbon footprint

Another aberration, comparing France to countries with several hundred million inhabitants, such as China and India. The carbon footprint per person is a much more relevant indicator. In this game, France is a poor student, as a Frenchman generates 10 tons of CO2 per year.

In comparison, as detailed in a recent study published in Nature sustainability, whose data dates back to 2014: a European emits 6.3 tons, a Chinese 4.5 tons, an Indian 1.3 tons and an African 0.6 tons.

Comparison of per capita carbon footprint of different countries © Bruckner, B., Hubacek, K., Shan, Y. et al. Impacts of poverty reduction on national and global carbon emissions, sustainability of nature

Throughout history, France is the twelfth largest contributor to climate change

Since the Industrial Revolution, some countries have developed heavily reliant on fossil fuels, much more than others. Among the first industrialized countries, France has emitted immense quantities of CO2 in the course of its recent history – more than 35 billion tons, according to the specialized site Carbon Brief, i.e. the one that humanity generates in a year with fossil energy alone . However, this CO2 accumulated in the atmosphere is responsible for a non-negligible part of the current warming. France caused between 1.5 and 2.3% of historic emissions, depending on how you count.

Absolutely all countries must act now, especially the richest ones, to reduce their emissions

To limit global warming to less than 1.5°C compared to the pre-industrial era, a goal agreed upon by almost all the countries of the world to avoid the worst effects of the crisis, humanity can no longer emit more than 300 billion tons of CO2. That’s less than 7 years at the current rate.

Humanity will have, on average, to divide its greenhouse gas emissions by three to get below the threshold of two tons per person per year and aim for carbon neutrality, the balance between the latest emissions and what the planet can absorb. It is up to the rich countries, those most responsible and least affected by the climate crisis, to provide the bulk of the efforts and to allow poor countries to develop in their own way.

© High Council for Climate and Green

Also for this reason, Europe has set itself a new goal: to reduce its emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to 1990. However, France is already late in reaching the current target of -40%.

A classic argument of climate inertia

Blaming others for not acting alone is the “aquoibonism” argument, well known to climate inaction experts (our article on the subject). With climate change already raging around the world, including in France, any talk of delaying French action will contribute to further destruction.

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