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Turning Points: Trends in Countries’ Reaching Peak Greenhouse Gas Emissions over Time

This paper assesses each of the world’s countries in terms of whether their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have peaked, when they have peaked, and whether they have a commitment that implies an emissions peak in the future. The paper finds that an encouraging trend is emerging: the number of countries that have reached peak GHG emissions levels or have a commitment that implies a peak in emissions in the future grows from 19 countries in 1990 to 57 countries in 2030. The share of global emissions covered by these countries grows from 21% in 1990 to 60% in 2030. Among these 57 countries are some of the world’s biggest emitters such as China, the United States, Russia, Japan, Brazil, Germany, and Mexico. Nevertheless, the number of countries peaking and the emissions level at which they are peaking is insufficient to meet the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals to limit warming to well below 2˚C, with an effort to limit warming to 1.5˚C. The world’s ability to limit warming to 1.5-2˚C depends not only on the number of countries that have peaked over time, but also the global share of emissions represented by those countries, their emissions levels at peaking, the timing of peaking, and the rate of emissions reductions after peaking. As a result, it will be critically important for countries to make and achieve commitments to peak their emissions as soon as possible, per the Paris Agreement; to peak at lower emissions levels; and to commit to a significant rate of emissions decline after peaking.

Key Findings

Executive Summary

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