Call To Action - Countries

China, the United States, and the European Union are responsible for most of the world's CO2 emissions.  In 2006, China emitted 6,017.7 million metric tonnes (MMT) (Union of Concerned Scientists, 2009), the United States emitted 5,946 MMT (Energy Information Administration, 2008) and the EU-25*, 3,906.6 MMT. (Millennium Development Goals Indicators, n.d.)  In 2007, it was reported that China emitted about 24% of the world's carbon dioxide, the United States emitted 21%, and the EU-25, about 12%. (Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, 2008) This means China, the United States, and the EU are responsible for about 57% of the world's CO2 emissions. These numbers demonstrate the importance of pursuing emissions reduction in these three regions of the world. In 2005, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association reported that road transport was responsible for 73% of the emissions of the global transport sector. When cars burn gasoline, they are releasing more CO2 into the earth's atmosphere.

Note-The EU-25 refers to the size of the European Union from 2004 (Zhang, E., 2006) to 2007 (Europa-Gateway to the European Union, n.d.), which then consisted of twenty-five member states. 


The size of China's car fleet is growing at an alarming rate as its citizens continue purchasing vehicles. At the end of this year, China predicts it will have sold 11 million cars to its people. This is a 17% increase over the 2008 sales figure, and twenty times the amount sold ten years ago. (MacLeod, Calum, 2009) Earlier this year, Chinese car sales passed U.S. car sales for the first time in history. (Bradsher, Keith, 2009) The U.S. believes it will sell only 10 million cars this year, one million less than the Chinese prediction. One of the main reasons for the large increase is the global recession. The Chinese people are not suffering from its negative effects as much as Americans are. (Wai-yin Kwok, Vivian, 2009) The recession is forcing American citizens to save their money and hold off on purchasing cars they could afford if the economy was more prosperous. Another reason for the very recent boom in car sales is the apparent desire to show individual prosperity. (MacLeod, Calum, 2009) This mindset is not unlike American views towards owning cars. In both America and China, driving a car is a common symbol of personal success. Chinese cars are cheap, around the price range of below $6000, and they are becoming safer and more efficient. (MacLeod, Calum, 2009) This factor is also driving the sales boom. In the period from January to August, car production rose by 29.2% and sales rose by 26.6% when compared with the same period last year. (Wai-yin Kwok, Vivian, 2009) The sales boom is so large that American car companies like Chrysler, Ford, and GM, are starting to direct more of their attention towards Chinese markets. General Motors saw its sales in China rise by 75% over the 2008 figure and they now claim 25% of their total sales originate from there. (MacLeod, Calum, 2009) Foreign companies, like Volkswagen, Toyota, and Honda, saw significant growth in their Chinese car sales. (Wai-yin Kwok, Vivian, 2009) This rapid increase is not going to end anytime soon. Two analysts from the financial company Citi, Gerwin Ho and Ross Wei, predict that Chinese car sales are expected to increase by 15% every year from 2010 to 2012. They also believe the rise in sales will last for the next 20 to 30 years. (Wai-yin Kwok, Vivian, 2009)

China's rapid sales growth is unsettling because every new car bought releases more CO2 into the atmosphere. The country has a population of over 1.3 billion that is still growing, which means that many more people will become drivers over time. As a result, China must take great care in attempting to decrease the inevitable rise in CO2 emissions that will stem from the sales boom. Fortunately, the Chinese government is actively seeking new ways to decrease China's dependence on oil. It is using a system of tax cuts and raises in an attempt to lower the CO2 cars emit. The tax is one percent for cars with engines that are 1.6 liters or less. Owners of vehicles with larger engines, such as some cars, SUVs, and minivans, are taxed up to 40 percent. (Bradsher, Keith, 2009) This gives auto companies an incentive to design cars that burn less gasoline per mile driven. Even though the Chinese government is more stringent with emissions control than the U.S., some are still worried that the country will see a dangerous rise in CO2 pollution levels.

The United States

In 2006, the United States emitted about 5,946 million metric tons(MMT) of CO2. One year later, US carbon emissions rose 1.3 percent to 6,022 MMT. The US transportation sector alone was responsible for releasing 2,014.4 MMT, (Energy Information Administration, 2008) about 33.5% of that year's total emissions. Motor gasoline emissions account for 1,180.5 MMT, or about 58.6% of the transport sector's total emissions. (Energy Information Administration, 2008) 90% of all transport CO2 is emitted by aircraft, heavy-duty trucks, and light-duty automobiles. (Greene, David L., Shafer, Andreas, 2003) Data taken from 1990 to 2007 shows that the transportation emissions have steadily risen every year, with the added onset of a few occasional minor drops. No country, except China, emits more CO2 as a whole than the U.S. transport sector. (Greene, David L., Shafer, Andreas, 2003)  According to a report by David L. Green and Andreas Schafer, American citizens travel a total of  4.8 trillion person-miles each year. This is roughly equivalent to every American citizen making a trip around the world annually. (Greene, David L., Shafer, Andreas, 2003) This singles out the U.S. transport sector as one of the major targets for general emissions reduction. Unfortunately, the U.S government has not imposed strict measures to reduce its emissions. American dependence on foreign oil is one of the main reasons for the lack of progress. Currently, the U.S. is falling behind as countries like Japan and of the European Union are actively setting and pursuing reductions goals.

Recently, the global recession has brought U.S. car sales to an all-time low. The American people have been hard-pressed to save the money they make and not spend it on new car purchases. In February 2009, car sales were down by 41.4%. (Healey, James R., 2009) Even though the auto industry is struggling to sell as many cars as it did just a year ago, the U.S. transport sector still remains a major emitter of CO2.

The European Union

According to a 2004 study done by the European Commission and the IPCC based on the EU-25, passenger cars are responsible for about 5% of global CO2 emissions. European cars are responsible for about 2% of that 5%. In that same study, 12% of European Union CO2 emissions was attributed to passenger cars. The amount of CO2 the transport sector releases into the atmosphere is growing. This is the same trend that both China and the United States exhibit. The European Automobile Manufacturers' Association(ACEA) cites four main factors that are responsible for the rise in emissions. They are increase in mileage, an increase in freight transport, an aging car fleet, and a lack of traffic management. From 1995 to 2003, mileage rose by 16.4%. Europeans are more likely to retain older cars, which will release more CO2 into the atmosphere than newer, more environmentally-conscious models. The statistics show that for every new car purchased, two used cars change owners. The average age of cars is 8 years in the EU-15* and 14 years of age in the new member states. (European Automobile Manufacturers' Association, n.d.) The EU has the opposite problem China has; its citizens are not purchasing enough of the newer automobile models.

(*)Note-The EU-15 refers to the size of the European Union in 2003 that consisted of fifteen member states before it expanded in May of 2004. (National Review, 2003)


-Carbon Taxes-Cars that emit a certain amount of CO2 considered harmful for the environment should be taxed. This will give auto companies a good reason to throw their full support behind developing newer, more eco-friendly cars and it will encourage people to purchase these models if they will be cheaper for them to own. China and some European countries have already enacted new carbon tax laws, and it would be wise for the U.S. with large CO2 emissions to follow suit. (European Automobile Manufacturers' Association, 2009) In a similar fashion to some European countries' policies, every gram of carbon an engine holds should be taxed the same amount. (European Automobile Manufacturers' Association, 2009)

-Redesigning Catalytic Converters (Short-Term Solution)-These change exhaust gases into more environmentally-friendly compounds. (Wright, Matthew, n.d.) When the gases leave the engine, they flow down a tube that leads into the converter. When they reach the converter, they start moving through a honeycomb network of ceramics, which are coated with certain compounds that react with the exhaust to convert it into less harmful gases. The different types of catalysts used are called oxidation and reduction catalysts. In the first stage of the gasses' passage through the converter, they are directed to the reduction catalysts. (Bryant, Charles W., & Nice, Karim, n.d.) When the catalysts come into contact with an NO or NO2 molecule, they capture the nitrogen atom and leave O2 molecules behind. The free nitrogen atoms then bond with other nitrogen atoms to form diatomic N2 molecules. Next, the gases come into contact with the oxidation catalysts.  (Bryant, Charles W., & Nice, Karim, n.d.)  They help drive the reactions between hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and the oxygen gas that will produce carbon dioxide and water. (Bryant, Charles W., & Nice, Karim, n.d.) Catalytic converters do help reduce the amount of harmful greenhouses in the atmosphere, but they do emit carbon dioxide as a by-product of their oxidation reactions. A good short-term solution would be to develop new converter models that do not emit CO2, perhaps by capturing it before it leaves as exhaust. A second apparatus, linked to the converter, could directly capture CO2 or force the carbon monoxide to react in such a manner that would produce less CO2.

-Alternative Fuels (Long-Term Solution)-Gasoline needs to be replaced eventually because its burning is a very inefficient, CO2 producing process. Only about 20% of the gasoline's thermal energy is harnessed for doing useful work. If new types of fuel are to replace gasoline, they must fulfill certain criteria. A new fuel should be readily available to the public, and it should be able to power cars satisfactorily. (European Automobile Manufacturers' Association, n.d.)