Fact sheet

Fact Check: Do Australia's greenhouse gas emissions account for more than 5 per cent of the global total once exports are included, as Mike Cannon-Brookes says?

Carbon emissions

IT entrepreneur and outspoken climate change commentator Mike Cannon-Brookes claims that Australia, with a population of just 25 million people, generates and exports over 5 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions if exports are included. Mr Cannon-Brookes has overstated the extent to which Australia's exports contribute to global greenhouse gas emissions. There are, broadly, two ways to interpret Mr Cannon-Brookes's claim. The first is to assume he was referring to Australia's total domestic emissions, plus the emissions embedded in its exports, as a proportion of total world emissions. Fact Check estimated that Australia's domestic emissions plus the emissions embedded in its exports added to 1,712 million tonnes in 2016, representing roughly 3.6 per cent of total global emissions for that year ' less Mr Cannon-Brookes' claim of 5 per cent. The second interpretation is that Mr Cannon-Brookes was referring only to emissions linked to burning fossil fuels, as is common with this type of analysis. If the calculation is restricted to emissions from fossil fuel combustion ' excluding land-use changes and agriculture among other things ' Australia's domestic fossil fuel emissions plus emissions from its fossil fuel exports were roughly equivalent to 4.8 per cent of the global total for fossil fuel emissions in 2016. Whether a resource-rich country such as Australia should be accountable for emissions embedded in exports requires a subjective judgment about whether emissions should be attributed to the seller or user of fossil fuels.
Verdict: Overstated

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