Some goods do not emit pollution when they are consumed, but they are produced. This is the case, for example, for electric vehicles. If countries import a lot of these goods, measuring their contribution to the problem of climate change by focusing solely on greenhouse gas emitted on their national territory can be misleading. This is because this contribution is also a function of the amount of c greenhouse gas embodied in the goods they import and consume. Therefore, countries with low emissions but relatively high rates of consumption may be net CO2 importers (i.e. France); whereas others that rely on export economies may be net CO2 exporters (e.g. China).

This figure identifies net importers of CO2 (above the 0 line) and net exporter of CO2 (under the 0 line). Some countries had between 1990 and 2015 a relatively stable share of CO2 embedded in trade. This is the case of the United States and South Africa, for example. During the same period, Netherland went from being a net importer to a net exporter, while Indonesia went from being a net exporter to a net importer of CO2.