Carbon intensity

Carbon dioxide emissions per inhabitant in the world are highly variable. They range from 1 tonne per year per inhabitant for India up to 18 tonnes per year per inhabitant for North America.

They are directly correlated to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per inhabitant, as shown by the graph in Figure 6.1. Some countries are above the correlation interval (United States, Canada, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Poland, South Africa). In contrast, France and Japan, which are below the interval, may be considered as comparatively 'virtuous'.

The carbon intensity is defined as the level of CO2 emissions related to the GDP. Between 1990 and 2005, the carbon intensity dropped in several of the large economic regions, changing in Europe from 0.5 to 0.4 kg of CO2 per US $ and in North America from 0.7 to 0.5 kg of CO2 per US $.

Figure 6.1 Relationship between CO2 emissions and GDP per capita in the world [Source: Enerdata)

In China the figure dropped considerably, from 1.3 to 0.7kg of CO2 per US $. Nevertheless, it remains substantially higher than that of the main industrialised countries. In India and Latin America the figure remains stable at about 0.4 kg of CO2 per US $. In Asia in particular, it can be observed that the carbon intensity starts increasing when the GDP per inhabitant rises, then reaches a maximum before decreasing.

The same care must be taken with carbon intensity as with energy intensity. A drop in carbon intensity cannot be considered as a sufficient result per se. An actual drop in emissions is what is really needed.

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