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Australia is Fast Becoming One of the World’s Worst Climate Polluters

Burning coal and gas is the number one cause of the climate crisis, and Australia is the leading exporter of both. By 2030, things could get much worse.

by Gavin Butler
09 July 2019, 1:52am

Image via Pxhere

Australia is poised to become one of the world’s worst climate damagers over the next 10 years, according to a new report by Berlin-based science and policy institute Climate Analytics. Researchers found that Australia—the number one global exporter of coal and gas—could be responsible for as much as 17 percent of the world's carbon emissions by 2030, SBS reports. Australian coal alone could be responsible for 12 percent of global emissions.

"This report confirms Australia is on track to become one of the world's worst contributors to climate damage," said Gavan McFadzean of the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), the organisation that commissioned the research. “Burning coal and gas is the number one cause of the climate crisis and Australia is now the number one exporter of both, with quantities projected to increase dramatically in coming years.

“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."

Australia’s current coal, oil, and gas exports account for 3.6 percent of global trade, the Climate Analytics report states. But when we zoom out to also include the country’s domestic emissions—which account for 1.4 percent of the global total—Australia has a global climate footprint to the equivalent of about 5 percent. And if planned coal and gas expansions such as the Adani Carmichael coal mine go ahead, that number could significantly increase over the course of the next decade. The ACF has warned that Australia could well become an "emissions superpower".

“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 per cent of global climate pollution in 2030,” said Gavan. “Liquified natural gas is also a large and growing pollution problem, with Australia on track to become the world’s biggest LNG exporter, producing around a fifth of the world’s LNG.”

Emissions reduction minister Angus Taylor, however, claims the booming LNG industry is in fact working to lower global emissions by displacing coal in Asia—and that Australia should get credit for that. But energy analysts have said that there is little evidence Australian LNG is displacing coal, The Guardian reports. In the words of Tony Wood, energy program director at thinktank the Grattan Institute, Taylor’s claims are “counterfactual—unprovable—but is speculative at best, highly questionable at worst.”

The Climate Analytics report notes that Australia’s planned fossil fuel expansions are contradictory to global efforts to address the climate crisis, and are “inconsistent with the global energy transition that is needed to meet the critical Paris Agreement goals of keeping global warming under a 2°C threshold and pursuing efforts to avoid passing a 1.5°C threshold,” as Gavan puts it.

“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.

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