The Australian government’s adoption of a 2050 net zero target prior to the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference should be seen in the context of an enormous, planned increase in coal and gas production in Australia.
Australia is already one of the two largest exporters of coal and the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the world, exporting almost 400 million tonnes of coal and around 75 million tonnes of LNG annually. This results in over 1.5 billion tonnes of emissions to the atmosphere each year, when these fuels are burned in Australia and overseas.
Despite the urgent need to reduce emissions to fight climate change, the Australian government is aggressively pursuing the expansion of fossil fuel production rather than a planned transition away from them.
Australia has 72 major coal projects under development that would double current production and add a further 1.4 billion tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere annually. There are also 44 major new gas and oil projects under development, equivalent to Australia’s entire current gas production which would add over 300 million tonnes of carbon.
The total emissions associated with currently planned coal and gas projects in Australia are around 1.7 billion tonnes of carbon annually. This is equivalent to almost twice the annual emissions from global aviation, more than three times Australia’s annual emissions, and more annual emissions than 200 coal-fired power stations.