According to non-stationary characteristic of the acoustic emission signal of rolling element bearings, a novel fault diagnosis method based on empirical wavelet transform (EWT) and ambiguity correlation classification (ACC) is proposed. In the proposed method, the acoustic emission signal acquired from a one-channel sensor is firstly decomposed using the EWT method, and then the mutual information of decomposed components and the original signal is computed and used to extract the noiseless component in order to obtain the reconstructed signal. Afterwards, the ambiguity correlation classifier, which has the advantages of ambiguity functions in the processing of the non-stationary signal, and the combining of correlation coefficients, is applied. Finally, multiple datasets of reconstructed signals for different operative conditions are fed to the ambiguity correlation classifier for training and testing. The proposed method was verified by experiments, and experimental results have shown that the proposed method can effectively diagnose three different operative conditions of rolling element bearings with higher detection rates than support vector machine and back-propagation (BP) neural network algorithms.