We develop a new index which maps relative climate change contributions to relative emergent impacts of climate change. The index compares cumulative emissions data with patterns of signal-to-noise ratios (S/N) in regional temperature (Frame et al 2017 Nat. Clim. Change 7 407–11). The latter act as a proxy for a range of local climate impacts, so emergent patterns of this ratio provide an informative way of summarising the regional disparities of climate change impacts. Here we combine these with measures of regional/national contributions to climate change to develop an 'emissions-emergence index' (EEI) linking regions'/countries' contributions to climate change with the emergent regional impacts of climate change. The EEI is a simple but robust indicator which captures relative contributions to and regional impacts from climate change. We demonstrate the applicability of the EEI both for discussions of historical contributions and impacts, and for considering future relative contributions and impacts, and examine its utility in the context of existing related metrics. Finally, we show how future emissions pathways can either imply a growth or reduction of regional climate change inequalities depending on the type and compositions of socioeconomic development strategies.