Iceland Has Highest Per-Capita CO2 Emissions in EU and EFTA Skip to content

Iceland Has Highest Per-Capita CO2 Emissions in EU and EFTA

By Larissa Kyzer

Iceland has the highest per capita carbon dioxide emissions when all the economies in the EU and EFTA are compared side-by-side. This result came forth in a recent report issued by Statistics Iceland, which compared data from 2016.

Iceland’s CO2 emissions have increased significantly since 2014, which was the last time they were compared with those in the EU and EFTA areas. From 2008-2014, Iceland was ranked third or fourth in per-capita CO2 emissions, but they have increased since then due to “increased activity in air and marine transport,” as well as metal production.

“Other economies with high per capita emissions are Luxembourg, Denmark and Estonia,” the report continues. “Emissions per capita within these countries have been between 13 and 19 tonnes of carbon dioxide per capita. Emissions per capita within the region have, in general, been decreasing since 2008, and the majority of countries have reached approximately 9 tonnes per capita with few countries showing significantly lower values. Iceland is the only country among the countries ranked above 20 which has shown a significant increase in per capita emissions since 2008.”

As of 2016, Iceland’s CO2 emissions are 16.9 tonnes per capita, up from 15.5 in 2015, and 13.9 in 2014. Iceland’s emissions were actually on a downward trend between 2008 and 2012, going from 14.6 tonnes per capita to 13.3. But they began to rise again in 2013.

The report notes that “[t]he economies at the top of the list have economic segments which dominate their emissions. The majority of emissions from the economy of Luxembourg come from the air transport section, both air cargo and passenger transportation. Marine transport is the dominating sector for the Danish economy, which is home to the world’s largest shipping company. In 2016, only 15% of Estonian power generation came from a renewable source, which makes this sector the dominant emitter with the economy. Estonia produces 93% of their energy needs, which is the highest portion within the EU.” Emissions from the Icelandic economy derive primarily from two sectors, the report continues: “…air transportation and the production of basic metals. Emissions from metal production in Iceland are due to consumption of graphite in electrodes rather than from fuel combustion.”

When comparing household emissions, Iceland also ranks higher than its Nordic neighbors in CO2 emissions, and has since 2008. “The highest value was 1.96 tonnes per capita in 2007, but the value reached 1.64 tonnes per capita in 2014, which is a lowering by 19%. Emissions from 1.64 tonnes of carbon dioxide is similar to a mid-sized family car that is driven 8,000 km.”

“Danish households have reduced their emissions most from 2008, or by 0.33 tonnes per capita,” the report notes, and so have Icelandic households. However, even so, “…the value for 2016 is still higher than what was calculated for 1995.” The report notes that “[t]he increase in emissions from 1995 to 2007 resembles the general trend for household spending in the years prior to the economic collapse of 2008. The reduction post collapse is also somewhat reflected in the emission trends, but renewal of the household car fleet didn’t start until a few years after the crash.” The outlook isn’t entirely pessimistic, however: “It can be estimated that electrification of the car fleet will further reduce the household emissions after 2016.”

See the full report, in English, here.

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