Emissions in the U.S. and EU have been on a general downtrend in recent years, but those in Asia Pacific continue to drive the rise in global emissions:
Global growth in carbon dioxide emissions over the past 30 years has been primarily driven by the Asia Pacific region. This is primarily a function of rising coal consumption in the region. In 1985, Asia Pacific’s emissions were lower than those of the U.S. or EU. In 2018, they were nearly double the combined emissions of the U.S. and EU.
It is true that the U.S. has put more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than any other country, although it will eventually be passed by China. It’s also worth noting that per capita emissions in the U.S. are significantly higher than China’s.
In 2018, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions were 15.3 metric tons per person. (Incidentally, this wasn’t highest in the world; most Middle Eastern countries were ahead of this). In China, they were 6.8 metric tons per person. So China has just under half the per capita emissions, but more than four times the U.S. population.
Although China’s coal consumption has been relatively stable for the past four years, the country still consumes just over 50% of the world’s coal. Given that coal consumption has the highest associated carbon dioxide emissions among the fossil fuels, the single biggest action the world could take to reduce emissions would be to displace China’s coal-fired power by cleaner power sources. Of course other actions should be taken, but there is no denying that this represents an enormous source of global carbon dioxide emissions.