Australia Set To Become An “Emissions Superpower,” Courtesy Fossil Fuel Exports

Australia could be an emissions superpower for being liable for 5% emissions of global greenhouse gas. As per new research, if we estimate the amount of pollution caused by exports of its fossil fuel, it could well increase to as much as 17% by 2030.

Australia was found responsible for about 1.4% of global emissions under climate accounting rules that record release of carbon dioxide within a country. As per the analysis by science and policy institute Climate Analytics, another 3.6% which is more than twice of that are a result of Australia’s coal, oil and gas exports.

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All proposed developments regarding fossil fuel including Adani’s Carmichael mine, other proposed coal developments in the Galilee Basin and Western Australia’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects, and policies adopted by other countries consistent with the Paris agreement if approved, Australia could be associated with carbon pollution up to 17%.

The Australian Conservation Foundation, which commissioned the research, said Australia would be one of the worst contributors to a climate emergency as per the scenario.

“Australia is now the number one exporter of both coal and gas, and we are scheduled to push that off the charts in the next 10 years. We are looking to become an emissions superpower,” the foundation’s Gavan McFadzean said. “We are fortunate to have many of our emissions counted elsewhere but that doesn’t mean we’re not responsible for them.”

With no possibility of changes in greenhouse accounting rules, there is hardly any scope to reflect the pollution rooted in Australian exports. However, Angus Taylor, the emissions reduction minister, has suggested that for the role of the booming LNG industry in lowering global emissions by displacing Asia’s coal, Australia should get credit. A similar claim has been made by Canada saying that it must be allowed under the Paris agreement.

However, Taylor is yet to clarify whether, under this approach, emissions from coal exports of Australia should also get considered or not.

According to the energy analysts, the evidence of Australian LNG replacing coal is not much. While in Japan, which is the biggest LNG market of Australia, emissions-free nuclear and renewable energy were expected to give gas increasing competition as per the report by the government’s chief economist last week.

The Climate Analytics report says Australia’s support for new fossil fuel developments is not in line with its commitment to the 2015 Paris agreement goals of keeping the global temperature well below 2C while working towards limiting it to 1.5C. Scientists say fossil fuel emissions will require to peak soon for meeting the Paris goals, and then decline rapidly. Average global temperatures have already increased about 1C above pre-industrial levels.

Last financial year, the Australian export earnings from the coal and gas industries topped $117bn. Almost 30% of coal and over 20% of gas traded on global markets come from Australia.

Aftermath the Coalition’s election victory, the opening of the Galilee coal basin in central Queensland gained the government’s support as well as the support of the opposition starting with the long-suspended Adani Carmichael mine. To this effect, coalition and labor senators voted for a motion last week.

Even though six mining proposals in the Galilee have received approval, construction has not begun. The viability of these projects is questionable as per the analysts given the lack of existing infrastructure, the cost of commodity transportation to an export port hundreds of kilometers away and uncertainty about the future of coal as the world is moving towards cleaner energy sources.

Since 2015 Australia’s emissions have risen every year. However, government greenhouse reports highlighted the reduction of per capita carbon pollution to its lowest level in 29 years. However, Australia remains one of the highest emitters in the world under this measure as per climate Analytics, and if exported emissions were taken into consideration, per head figure would jump from about 20 tonnes to almost 70 tonnes each year.

If fossil fuel exports were counted against the nation of origin, then countries other than Australia, that would have increased responsibility for global emissions would include Russia, the US, Indonesia, and many countries in the Middle East.

Arindom Ghosh

A professional writer, blogger, copywriter, and a member of the International Association of Professional Writers and Editors, New York. He has been part of many reputed domestic and global online magazines and publications. An avid reader and a nature lover by heart, when he is not working, he is probably exploring the secrets of life.