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There of lots of ways to frame the climate and biodiversity crisis. The BBC's 10 o'clock news feature on the IPCC's most recent report 'Climate Change 2021 - The Physical Science Basis'

concluded with the the fact that whilst the UK is responsible for 1% of global emissions, China is responsible for 24% - and is the highest emitting country in the world.

In the context it was presented in this seemed like a deflection of responsibility.

Whilst China's increasing emissions trajectory is quite frightening - and the UK has significantly reduced emissions over the last decade, there are lots of different ways to compare the UK and China.

For instance, if we reframe the UK / China comparison in contemporary per-capita terms, each person in the UK is currently doing more damage to the planet than each person in China.

The UK produces 8.1 metric tonnes of CO2 per person, China produces 6.4.


Date: March 2021

If everyone in the world lived as we do in the UK we would need 2.6 earths to sustain us. If everyone lived the current Chinese lifestyle, we would need 2.3 earths to sustain us.

Starting points and emissions history is also important to consider.


The argument has been made that historic emissions by the UK were dumped into to atmosphere without knowing the consequences, and that China has full knowledge of the consequences of its currently increasing emissions.

However you could say that we as individuals in the UK maintain a higher level per capita carbon footprint than individuals in China in full knowledge of the consequences.

Click below to see an excellent graph / animation by Carbon Brief which tells the story the history of global emissions succinctly.