New research finds Australia's carbon footprint could become among world's largest

By Shannon Jenkins

July 9, 2019

Photo by Nick Nice on Unsplash

Australia could account for up to 17% of global emissions by 2030, according to new research.

The research by Berlin-based science and policy institute Climate Analytics based its findings on how Australia’s current projections for fossil fuel expansions compare if other countries fulfill their commitments to the Paris Agreement.

Australia’s contribution to global emissions already sits at 5% when its current coal, oil and gas exports (3.6% of global total) are added to domestic emissions (1.4% of global total).

When this is taken into account, Australia becomes equal fifth with Russia on the list of major global climate polluters, behind only India, the European Union, the USA and China.

The Australian Conservation Foundation’s Climate Change & Clean Energy program manager, Gavan McFadzean, said the Australian government’s planned fossil fuel expansions contradict global efforts to meet the “critical” goal set out by the Paris Agreement to keep global warming under a 2°C threshold.

“Instead of encouraging new fossil fuel projects, a responsible Federal Government would recognise that most of Australia’s fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground and would facilitate the necessary rapid transition to clean, renewable energy, while working actively to support communities that will be affected by this transition,” he said.

He noted that despite burning coal and gas being the number one cause of “the climate crisis”, Australia is now the number one exporter of both, and is set to become the largest exporter of liquified natural gas.

“If Adani’s mine and all the other coal mines proposed for the region reach full production by 2030, the Galilee Basin on its own could account for up to 5.45% of global climate pollution in 2030,” he said.

The report follows a climate crisis call to action from the OECD Secretary General Angel Gurría.

In a speech in Geneva last week, Gurría described “short termism” as an approach that slows down or reverses progress from governments across the globe.

He argues governments will eventually “be held accountable at the ballot box” if they continue to avoid taking “radical measures that take well-being and inclusion into account”.

“We have repeatedly called upon governments to put national agendas and short termism aside and honour their climate commitments … to put a meaningful price on carbon, to phase out state support for fossil fuels, and to stop burning coal,” he said.

“We can’t have a common future if we leave behind the vulnerable segments of our population, who often stand to be hardest hit by climate change.

 “Our policies have to be made with our children’s future in mind… short-term decision-making can lock countries into expensive mistakes in financing and developing infrastructure… that will be neither necessary nor profitable in a low-emissions world, they will be stranded assets.

“Treating carbon pricing as a ‘mainstream’ tax policy, with few constraints on revenue use, would help cleave support for carbon pricing from the social impacts of carbon pricing and carbon revenue itself, to depend on performance of the overall system.”

 “This radical transformation demands a profound systemic change, and we are all part of this system.”

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