Everyone has a role to play in taking climate action. However, in 2019 when it emerged that Australia contributed to only 1.3% of total global CO2-e emissions many people were led to believe that as a nation, we were already doing enough.
Unfortunately, we know that this number doesn’t really tell the whole story.
1.3% of total emissions might seem minimal when some of the world’s highest emitters produce significantly more carbon than Australia each year. However, there are many factors that need to be considered when assessing our nation’s overall impact
The first issue is our export industry, specifically, coal. According to the Reserve Bank of Australia, our coal exports have accounted for more than a quarter of our total exports over the last decade. We’re one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of coal, and most of our electricity is still powered by fossil fuels.
The 1.3% mentioned above only considers the emissions that are produced within Australia. This doesn’t include emissions relating to exporting minerals or consider the emissions produced as a result of the export. RMIT ABC Fact Check estimated that Australia contributed about 3.6% to global emissions in 2016 when domestic and export emissions were included.
Per capita emissions
The next issue emerges when you consider our emissions per capita. Because of our coal industry, Australia’s emissions are disproportionately high in relation to the size of our population. We need systematic change to make us less reliant on fossil fuels and to bring this number down. After all, individuals can only do so much.
The graph below from Climate Analytics shows the difference between total and per capita emissions amongst some of the world’s highest emitting countries. We account for about 0.33% of the world’s population, so when you look at emissions per capita, we’re actually one of the highest emitters.
As we know, trees play an incredibly important role in climate action, with their ability to sequester carbon and improve land quality. Regrettably though, Australia has one of the worst rates of deforestation in the world.
Australia was the only developed nation to make the World Wildlife Fund’s list of deforestation hotspots in 2018 and the Brown to Green report in 2019, recognising that we currently had no policy in place to tackle the issue.
The destruction of Australia’s forests creates significant problems for our environment and climate. Not only does it reduce the amount of carbon sequestered, it also destroys habitat for our native wildlife.
Australia could be doing more
All nations have a responsibility to take climate action but especially developed nations such as Australia.
As a wealthy country, there’s the opportunity to take the lead on this issue and there are number of ways that we could do this. For example, a majority of our electricity is still generated by burning fossil fuels. Currently, we have the financial capacity to start moving away from this in a way that developing nations may not be able to.
At Greenfleet, we think that Australia should take the lead in reducing climate impact and implementing effective climate policy.
What we can do
As individuals, it can be hard to see the role that we can each play in making a difference and influencing change.
Here are some steps that you can take to help:
- Advocate and vote for climate action at every opportunity
- Write to your local MP to ask for tangible climate action
- Consider signing the Climate Change Act petition here
- Work to reducing your environmental impact where possible
- Offset the emissions you can't avoid at greenfleet.com.au/offset
To find out more about what we can do individually, learn about 5 practical ways to reduce your carbon footprint.
Regardless of the amount of carbon being emitted, climate change is a global issue that has impacts for everyone. It’s important that Australia understands our contribution to global emissions and climate change and the role that we can play in taking strong action against it.