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Ranked: The Most Carbon-Intensive Sectors in the World

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Ranked: The Most Carbon-Intensive Sectors in the World

Ranked: The Most Carbon-Intensive Sectors in the World

Ever wonder which sectors contribute the most to CO2 emissions around the world?

In this graphic, we explore the answers to that question by comparing average Scope 1 emission intensities by sector, according to an analysis done by S&P Global Inc.

Defining Scope 1 Emissions

Before diving into the data, it may be useful to understand what Scope 1 emissions entail.

Scope 1 emissions are direct greenhouse gas emissions from sources that are owned or controlled by a company, such as their facilities and vehicles.

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Scope 1 emissions can do a good job of highlighting a company’s environmental footprint because they represent the direct emissions related to manufacturing or creating a company’s products, whether they are tangible goods, digital software, or services.

Scope 2 and 3 emissions, on the other hand, encompass the indirect emissions associated with a company’s activities, including those from a company’s purchased electricity, leased assets, or investments.

Ranking the Carbon Giants

According to S&P Global’s analysis of 2019-2020 average emissions intensity by sector, utilities is the most carbon-intensive sector in the world, emitting a staggering 2,634 tonnes of CO2 per $1 million of revenue.

Materials and energy sectors follow behind, with 918 tonnes and 571 tonnes of CO2 emitted, respectively.

SectorSector ExplanationScope 1 CO2 emissions per $1M of revenue, 2019-2020
UtilitiesElectric, gas, and water utilities and independent producers2,634 tonnes
MaterialsChemicals, construction materials, packaging, metals, and mining918 tonnes
EnergyOil and gas exploration/production and energy equipment571 tonnes
IndustrialsCapital goods, commercial services, and transportation194 tonnes
Consumer staplesFood, household goods, and personal products90 tonnes
Consumer discretionaryAutomobiles, consumer durables, apparel, and retailing33 tonnes
Real estateReal estate and real estate management31 tonnes
Information technologySoftware, technology hardware, and semiconductors24 tonnes
FinancialsBanks, insurance, and diversified financials19 tonnes
Communication servicesTelecommunication, media, and entertainment9 tonnes
Health careHealth care equipment, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and life sciences7 tonnes

S&P Global also reveals some interesting insights when it comes to various industries within the materials sector, including:

  • Cement manufacturing exhibits an extremely high level of Scope 1 emissions, emitting more than double the emissions from the utilities sector (5,415 tonnes of CO2 per $1M of revenue)
  • Aluminum and steel production are also quite emission-intensive, emitting 1,421 and 1,390 tonnes respectively in 2019-2020
  • Relatively lower-emission materials such as gold, glass, metals and paper products bring down the average emissions of the materials sector

Given these trends, a closer look at emission-intensive industries and sectors is necessary for our urgent need to decarbonize the global economy.

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Energy Shift

Visualizing Copper Production by Country in 2023

Chile and Peru account for one-third of the world’s copper output.

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Voronoi graphic illustrating global copper production in 2023.

Visualizing Copper Production by Country in 2023

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Copper is considered an essential metal for the clean energy transition because it is a great conductor of electricity.

As a result, governments around the world have been encouraging the construction of new mines, and mining companies have been seeking new projects and acquiring existing mines to meet the growing demand.

In this graphic, we illustrate global copper production in 2023, based on data from the U.S. Geological Survey, Mineral Commodity Summaries, as of January 2024.

Most Copper Comes from South America

Chile and Peru account for one-third of the world’s copper output.

CountryRegion2023E Production
(Million tonnes)
🇨🇱 ChileSouth America5.0
🇵🇪 PeruSouth America2.6
🇨🇩 Congo (Kinshasa)Africa2.5
🇨🇳 ChinaAsia1.7
🇺🇸 United StatesNorth America1.1
🇷🇺 RussiaEurope/Asia0.9
🇦🇺 AustraliaOceania0.8
🇮🇩 IndonesiaAsia0.8
🇿🇲 ZambiaAfrica0.8
🇲🇽 MexicoNorth America0.7
🇰🇿 KazakhstanAsia0.6
🇨🇦 CanadaNorth America0.5
🇵🇱 PolandEurope0.4
🌍 Rest of World--3.1
World total (rounded)--21.5

Chile is also home to the two largest mines in the world, Escondida and Collahuasi.

Meanwhile, African countries have rapidly increased their production. The Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, transitioned from being a secondary copper producer in the late 1990s to becoming the third-largest producer by 2023.

Part of the growth in copper mining in Africa is attributed to high investment from China. Chinese mining companies represent 8% of Africa’s total output in the mining sector.

Within its territory, China has also seen a 277% growth in copper production over the last three decades.

In the U.S., Arizona is the leading copper-producing state, accounting for approximately 70% of domestic output. Copper is also mined in Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah.

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Energy Shift

Who’s Building the Most Solar Energy?

China’s solar capacity triples USA, nearly doubles EU.

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Chart showing installed solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity in China, the EU, and the U.S. between 2010 and 2022, measured in gigawatts (GW).

Who’s Building the Most Solar Energy?

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

In 2023, solar energy accounted for three-quarters of renewable capacity additions worldwide. Most of this growth occurred in Asia, the EU, and the U.S., continuing a trend observed over the past decade.

In this graphic, we illustrate the rise in installed solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity in China, the EU, and the U.S. between 2010 and 2022, measured in gigawatts (GW). Bruegel compiled the data..

Chinese Dominance

As of 2022, China’s total installed capacity stands at 393 GW, nearly double that of the EU’s 205 GW and surpassing the USA’s total of 113 GW by more than threefold in absolute terms.

Installed solar
capacity (GW)
ChinaEU27U.S.
2022393.0205.5113.0
2021307.0162.795.4
2020254.0136.976.4
2019205.0120.161.6
2018175.3104.052.0
2017130.896.243.8
201677.891.535.4
201543.687.724.2
201428.483.618.1
201317.879.713.3
20126.771.18.6
20113.153.35.6
20101.030.63.4

Since 2017, China has shown a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 25% in installed PV capacity, while the USA has seen a CAGR of 21%, and the EU of 16%.

Additionally, China dominates the production of solar power components, currently controlling around 80% of the world’s solar panel supply chain.

In 2022, China’s solar industry employed 2.76 million individuals, with manufacturing roles representing approximately 1.8 million and the remaining 918,000 jobs in construction, installation, and operations and maintenance.

The EU industry employed 648,000 individuals, while the U.S. reached 264,000 jobs.

According to the IEA, China accounts for almost 60% of new renewable capacity expected to become operational globally by 2028.

Despite the phasing out of national subsidies in 2020 and 2021, deployment of solar PV in China is accelerating. The country is expected to reach its national 2030 target for wind and solar PV installations in 2024, six years ahead of schedule.

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