Most polluted countries in the world: 2021 ranking

most polluted countries

Human activity is one of the main causes of global warming because of its very high greenhouse gas emissions. But are all countries involved? And if not, which pollute the most?? There are different ways of ranking the most polluting countries, depending on the calculation method used: CO2 emissions, per capita, ecological footprint...


Who are the most polluting countries in the world?

The three countries with the highest carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are, unsurprisingly, the three most industrialised countries in the world: China, the United States, and India. However, their carbon footprint per capita tells a very different story.

Top 10 most polluting countries 2021

In 2019, global carbon emissions reached 34.1 million tonnes of CO2 in the atmosphere, a record that is likely to be quickly overtaken, as the projected trajectory of future emissions doesn’t predict any decrease.

The most densely populated and industrialised countries are therefore at the top of the list of the world's most polluted countries. The three countries with the highest CO2 emissions are:

  1. China with 9.8 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, largely due to the export of consumer goods and its heavy reliance on coal;
  2. The United States with 4.9 million tonnes of CO2 emitted;
  3. India with 2.4 million tonnes of CO2 emitted.

The most polluting countries in EuropeGermany is the European country with the highest CO2 emissions, due to its heavy dependence on coal, and contributes to over ¼ of the entire European Union’s total CO2 emissions.

Most polluting countries per capita 2021

Source: Statistica

It is important to differentiate the national inventory, divided by the number of inhabitants in this case, from the carbon footprint. For example, the UK’s national inventory per capita is 7.01 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year, while its carbon footprint was equivalent to 11.8 tonnes of CO2 per year.

The three most polluting countries per capita are all located in the Arabian Peninsula. This is due to two factors:

  • The large share of the oil industry in their economies;
  • Their small populations.

Although India is the third most polluting country in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide emitted, it does not appear in the ranking of the 10 most polluting countries per capita. In fact, India is making considerable efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by investing in the development of renewable energies. Selectra has decided to support India in its energy transition by building a wind farm with the Gandhi Project. Thanks in part to the location of the wind farm and its purpose to replace traditional - yet highly polluting - energy generation, each euro invested has a huge impact on not only the country but also the planet.

Ecological Footprint By Country 2021

ecological footprint

An “ecological footprint” is the pressure put on the planet to meet the needs of the people that live there. You can have your own personal ecological footprint, a country can have an ecological footprint, and the entire human population has a global ecological footprint. Currently, to meet the needs of the entire human population, we actually need 1.7 Planet Earths in order to remain sustainable.

The global ecological footprint is getting worse and worse. In 2019, the date of the Overshoot Day, i.e. the annual date from which humanity has spent all the resources that the planet can generate in one year, was 31 July, compared to 30 September in 1998. In 2020, it was 22 August. This three-week setback from the previous year is due to the COVID health crisis and the measures taken as a result.

Singapore's ecological footprint is therefore 99.5 times the biocapacity that its territory provides.

Air pollution

air pollution

Global CO2 emissions continue to accumulate in the atmosphere and have already caused about 1°C of global warming since the industrial revolution.

Despite the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement - avoid a 2ºC increase to the global temperature by the end of the century through the drastic reduction of CO2 emissions by signatory countries - and the alarming IPCC reports on the state of the planet, not all countries have made the environment a priority yet.

What is PPM? "PPM" stands for "parts per million". It is a unit of measurement used to calculate the level of pollution in the air. It shows the number of greenhouse gas molecules present in one million molecules of air.

Updated on