Insights from the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2018

Contributed by Robert Lyman © 2018

Robert Lyman is an Ottawa energy policy consultant and former public servant of 27 years, prior to that he was a diplomat for 10 years.


The 67th edition of the British Petroleum Statistical Review of World Energy was published in June 2018. This annually-published document is generally regarded as the most accurate and authoritative statistical record of global energy supply, demand and related subjects. For several years now, BP has included statistics on carbon dioxide emissions.


The following is the link to this report. Page 49 contains the data on carbon dioxide emissions. They describe emissions by geographic region and country for each of the years 2007 to 2017, an indication of the growth rates over the period 2007 to 2016, and the share that each region or country had of global emissions in 2017.


Not everyone likes statistics, especially when they are printed in a small font without explanation or commentary. Nonetheless, the value of statistics is that they constitute factual evidence of what has actually happened in global energy markets, free from the debates that inevitably surround discussions about what the future may hold based on economic models and mathematical equations. Statistics about the past are just the facts.


In my comments that follow, I draw attention to the data that I think is especially telling with respect to carbon dioxide emissions in the context of the agreements of the Parties under the Climate Change Convention since 1990 to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, including the most recent COP21 Agreement in Paris in December 2015. Broadly, what have the countries of the world actually done over the past eleven years with respect to carbon dioxide emissions? The following points are the highlights:


  • Global emissions are not declining. In fact, carbon dioxide emissions in 2017 were 33.4 gigatonnes (Gt) compared to 30.0 Gt in 2007. So, emissions increased 11.3% over that period.


  • Two parts of the world, as represented by the countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the more highly developed economies, and the non-OECD are heading in opposite directions with respect to emissions. OECD emissions declined at the rate of 123 megatonnes (Mt) per year over the period 2007 to 2016, or 0.8% per year. Meanwhile, the non-OECD countries increased their emissions during the same period at the rate of 417 Mt per year, or 2.9% annually.


  • In 2017, the non-OECD countries constituted 63% of global emissions, and the OECD countries constituted 37%. The non-OECD share is steadily increasing year by year, so what happens there is much more important to the global total than what happens in the OECD.


  • The largest country emitter in the world by far is China with 9.3 Gt in 2017, or 28% of the world’s total.


  • The next five largest country emitters in order are the United States (5.1 Gt), India (2.3 Gt), Russia (1.5 Gt), Japan (1.2 Gt) and Germany (0.8 Gt).


  • Emissions declined fastest over the 2007-2016 period in Europe, at the average annual rate of -1.5%, followed by North America at -0.9%.


  • Emissions grew fastest in the Middle East at 3.6% annually, followed by the Asia/Pacific area at 3.1% annually.


  • The largest percentage reductions in emissions over the period by country were in Finland, Greece and Turkey, all at 3.9% per year.


  • The largest percentage increases in emissions over the period by country were in Vietnam, at 10.4% per year, followed by Qatar at 9.4% per year and Bangladesh at 7.7% per year.


  • The annual growth in Asia/Pacific emissions from 2007 to 2017 was 337 Mt, more than the total annual emissions of France in 2017 (320 Mt).


  • Based on their 2017 emissions levels, a group of countries are on track to become carbon dioxide emissions “heavyweights” in the near future: South Korea (680 Mt); Iran (634 Mt); Saudi Arabia (595 Mt); Indonesia (512 Mt); Brazil (467 Mt) and Mexico (473 Mt).


  • The United Nations goal is to reduce emissions to one half of 2005 levels by 2050, or roughly 15 Gt. Today, if one could eliminate all emissions from the western hemisphere, Europe, the former Soviet Union countries, the Middle East and Africa, remaining emissions from the Asia/Pacific region would still exceed that goal.


Related: “The Two-Degree Delusion”