Australia On Track to be Among the World's Worst Climate Change Contributors

A new report finds Australia is on track to be one of the worst climate change contributors because of its fossil fuel exports.
Donna Fuscaldo
Climate change concept piyaset/iStock

Australia is being blamed for 5% of all greenhouse gases emitted around the world and is on track to be the culprit for as much as 17% by 2030 if its fossil fuel exports are taken into consideration, new research from Climate Analytics found. 

To put it in perspective, Australia's carbon footprint is equal to the total emissions of Russia, which ranks fifth in producing greenhouse gases. Currently, the country is the biggest coal exporter, representing 29% of all traded coal in 2016. It's on track to be the worlds largest natural gas exporter as well. Both produce carbon dioxide that is playing a major role in climate change. 


 “Australia is one of the highest per capita CO2 emitters in the world. On a per capita basis, Australia’s carbon footprint, including exports, surpasses China by a factor of 9, the US by a factor of 4 and India by a factor of 37," Climate Analytics wrote in its research report. "If the current government and industry projections for fossil fuel exports are realised, Australia could be responsible (including both domestic and exported emissions) for about 13% (between 11.9% - 17.4%) of Paris Agreement compatible global CO2 emissions in 2030."

Australia Slow To Fight Climate Change 

While Australia is part of the Paris Agreement, which calls for temperatures to be limited it to 1.5°C, the country isn't doing much to reduce its domestic greenhouse gas emissions in a timely manner. Climate Analytics found in order for Australia to meet the long term temperature goal of the treaty it has to move quickly, something it has yet to do.

In fact, the researchers predict emissions in the country will likely continue to increase through 2030, falling way short of 26% to 28% reduction below the 2005 target it needs to meet under the Paris Agreement. "We find that Australia´s domestic total direct CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion (excluding fugitive emissions) will be about the same as 2005 levels by 2030. Including fugitive emissions, the emissions from fossil fuel use are projected to be about 15% higher by 2030 than in 2005," the researchers wrote.

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Australian Fossil Fuels Should Stay in Ground

The Australian Conservation Foundation commissioned the research and said that in response to the findings that Australia is moving steadily to become one of the world's worst contributors to climate change. Burning coal and gas are the leading causes of global warming and with Australia, the number one exporter of both it is playing an outsized role in the warming of the planet. 

“When we add Australia’s exported emissions to our domestic emissions, Australia rockets to equal fifth on the list of major global climate polluters, alongside Russia and behind only India, the European Union, the USA and China," the group said“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.”

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