Skip to navigationSkip to content

The nations with the most ambitious climate commitments, ranked

REUTERS/Natalie Behring/File Photo
The US will need to make its transition to clean energy happen more quickly than any other country.

The US catapulted itself to the top of countries with the most ambitious climate targets this week after President Joe Biden announced the US will cut its economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030.

To compare countries’ ambitions on an apples-to-apples basis, Victoria Cuming, head of global policy at BloombergNEF, crunched the numbers on climate pledges by G20 countries. She found the US goal ranks among most ambitious targets relative to the country’s “business as usual” emissions trajectory.  US emissions are about 20% below 2005 levels today, a figure likely to inch up during the economic recovery after the pandemic. That means the US will likely experience the most rapid economic and social change among major GHG emitters as a result of decarbonization over the next decade.

But other countries are setting the bar even higher when assessing their progress toward net-zero, Cuming concluded. In terms of absolute and per-capita emissions, the UK steals the show. In this sense, the US has plenty of catching up to do. GHG emissions per capita in the US remain among the highest in the world and will likely remain high even if the 2030 target is met.

RankingGap to BAUAbsolute emissionsEmissions per capita
1US 🇺🇸UK 🇬🇧UK 🇬🇧
2EU-27 🇪🇺EU-27 🇪🇺EU-27 🇪🇺
3Japan 🇯🇵Brazil 🇧🇷India 🇮🇳
4Australia 🇦🇺US 🇺🇸Brazil 🇧🇷
5South Korea 🇰🇷Canada 🇨🇦Japan 🇯🇵
6Russia 🇷🇺Australia 🇦🇺Mexico 🇲🇽
7UK 🇬🇧Argentina 🇦🇷Indonesia 🇮🇩
8Saudi Arabia 🇸🇦Japan 🇯🇵Argentina 🇦🇷
9Mexico 🇲🇽South Korea 🇰🇷US 🇺🇸
10Indonesia 🇮🇩Russia 🇷🇺South Korea 🇰🇷

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.