Australia outed as world’s biggest coal emitter

Coal plant with smoke pouring into sky (coal emitter)

Australia is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases from coal power in the world on a per capita basis—almost double those of China—according to a new analysis presented at the COP26 climate summit, The Guardian reports.

The British climate and energy thinktank Ember released an analysis that suggested the world’s wealthiest countries remained among the worst emitters from coal power once population was factored in.

Related article: Australia refuses to support COP26 coal pledge

Australia topped the list, with annual per person emissions five times greater than the global average and 40 per cent higher than any other major coal power user.

Looking at the period since the landmark Paris agreement was signed in 2015, the analysis found Australia emitted 5.34 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person each year, placing it ahead of South Korea (3.81), South Africa (3.19), the US (3.08) and the world’s biggest outright emitter, China (2.71).

Ember cited the International Energy Agency to argue OECD countries, including Australia, should end coal power by 2030 if they were to play their part in attempting to keep global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels—a goal of the Paris agreement—within reach.

The Morrison government rejected this and did not join a group of countries that pledged to phase out burning coal for electricity.

Ember global program lead Dave Jones said COP26 had seen a divergence between developing Asian countries and major OECD coal users over the need to close coal generation. Vietnam has pledged to stop building coal plants and to stop using it in the 2040s, and Indonesia, the Philippines and India have indicated they are changing previously held positions.

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He said arguments put forward by Australia, Japan and South Korea were “embarrassing” and “simply untenable”.

“They will undoubtedly be forced to change their position in the coming months,” Jones said.

Read the full report here.