High carbon from a land down under

Quantifying CO2 from Australia’s fossil fuel mining and exports
Global environmental change Carbon emissions Resources industry Federal government Government accountability Climate change Australia

Australians pride themselves on their country’s natural environment, and Australian governments have carefully curated a global image as an oasis of natural wonder. The reality, however, is far darker.

Australian government ministers argue Australia’s emissions are small on a global scale. They use this as an excuse for delaying effective action on climate. On any reasonable assessment of the data, Australia is a large emitter with a profound global obligation to reduce emissions, not to mention economic and security self-interest.

Australia has just 0.3% of the world population but produces 1.2% of world emissions, making it the 14th largest emitter globally. Australia emits more greenhouse gases than 40 countries that have bigger populations than Australia. Per capita, Australia’s emissions are the highest in the OECD and globally behind only smaller petro-states like Qatar.

Australia’s fossil exports can also be compared with in various country groupings.

  • In the OECD, Australia is the largest fossil fuel exporter in CO2 potential, making up 20% of the OECD total.
  • In the G20, Australia makes up 12% of fossil fuel exports, with the highest exports per capita and second highest production per capita.
  • In the Commonwealth, Australia is the largest fossil fuel miner and exporter, with a full third of Commonwealth exports by CO2 potential.
  • Compared with the European Union, Australia’s fossil fuel exports are 74% as large as all of those from all EU countries together, and more than twice as big as any EU country. Australia’s fossil fuel production is one and a half times the size of the EU countries’ production put together.
  • Australia’s exports are equal to a quarter of all the exports from the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
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