Why Australia’s 1.3% emissions matter

Australia's carbon emissions. Source: Grattan Institute

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is fond of saying that Australia only produces 1.3% of global greenhouse emissions. He says this to bolster his climate denialist position that his government does not need to take a lead on cutting carbon emissions. This position is fundamentally wrong for several reasons.

  1. There is already too much carbon in the atmosphere: globally we have to stop all emissions as soon as possible. Every 1% matters, including Australia’s. We should begin rapidly reducing emissions to zero.
  2. Australia’s per capita emissions are the highest in the developed world. With 0.3% of the world’s population, reducing total emissions to 0.3% (instead of 1.3%) would be catching up to average from the very back of the pack. That is still not global leadership.
  3. Australia is a wealthy country and therefore has the means to take faster action to reduce emissions than other countries.
  4. With a lot of sun and wind technically there is the capacity to move faster than average to 100% renewable energy and we should do so. But Australia lags behind Germany in solar power energy.
  5. The 1.3% figure only counts emissions from carbon that is burned inside the country. As the largest coal exporter in the world and one of the top three fossil fuel exporters, Australia can and should make an even bigger impact to reduce global emissions. It also has a moral obligation to do so.