Carbon and energy efficiency

Energy intensity: how much energy does it use per unit of GDP?

Since energy is such a large contributor to CO2, reducing energy consumption can inevitably help to reduce emissions. However, some energy consumption is essential to human wellbeing and rising living standards.

Energy intensity can therefore be a useful metric to monitor. Energy intensity measures the amount of energy consumed per unit of gross domestic product. It effectively measures how efficiently a country uses energy to produce a given amount of economic output. A lower energy intensity means it needs less energy per unit of GDP.

Carbon intensity: how much carbon does it emit per unit of energy?

Energy intensity – shown in the chart above – is one important metric to monitor whether countries are making progress in reducing emissions. The other key part of this equation is carbon intensity: the amount of CO2 emitted per unit of energy.

We can reduce emissions by (1) using less energy; and/or (2) using lower-carbon energy.

This metric monitors the second option. As we transition our energy mix towards lower-carbon sources (such as renewables or nuclear energy), the amount of carbon we emit per unit of energy should fall.

This chart shows carbon intensity – measured in kilograms of CO2 emitted per kilogram of oil equivalent consumed.

Has economic growth decoupled from CO2 emissions?

To reduce emissions and achieve increasing prosperity at the same time, we have to decouple economic growth from CO2 emissions. Several countries have achieved this in recent years.

The chart here shows whether this country has achieved this by showing the change in GDP per capita, and annual per capita CO2 emissions over time.

We show both production-based and consumption-based emissions (for countries where this data is available). This allows us to see whether the import of production from other countries – or the export to other countries – has affected this change in emissions.