Australia – A wolf in sheep’s clothing in the climate change debate? (615 words)

Australia often doesn’t feature in discussions about climate change, however Australia is a wolf in sheep clothing that should be considered.  Australia’s population is 23 million with a GDP of $1.56 trillion, it’s significantly developed and has a rather large population, both criteria which should make it a biggish player in the climate change debate. Australia’s per capita emissions make a case for it being a significant player, overtaking the US in 2009 as the worst emitter of CO2 per capita. Per capita emission can be a little misleading due to issues with population dispersion of emissions, therefore I’ve included a chart with emissions per Kt of countries with similar populations to subvert this issue. It highlights that Australia even with its small population can be producing as much CO2 as countries with twice/ 2.5X Australia’s population.

World Bank Stats on CO2 per capita 2

Figure 1: World Bank – CO2 emissions per metric ton (2005-2010) – Updated with information from Netherlands Environmental Agency

World Bank Stats kt

Figure 2 – World Bank – CO2 emissions per kt of developed countries with similar populations to Australia (2005-2010)

Australia 2014 – The Tony Abbot Administration

Australia’s current view on climate change is that it’s not an issue and action against climate change is pretty non-existent:

1) Current Prime Minister Tony Abbot is in favour of coal, calling it the ‘foundation of our prosperity’ and ‘good for humanity’. He has even advocated it as a resources that should be used by developing nations to increase their prosperity. Tony Abbot is giving the green light for more emissions and effectively ignoring climate change.

2) The Carbon Tax has been abolished and this is likely to cause a 9% rise in emissions from 2013-14 or about 14 million extra tonnes of carbon dioxide. Emissions are also likely to rise due to the failings of hydro and wind power. Coal is being used to bolster supply.

3) Carbon Capture and Storage research budget was slashed as well as other climate change research sectors. Cuts of about half a billion dollars are being made to CCS research, whereas coal industries are continuing to promote the benefits of coal not only to Australians but those overseas. The budget of other climate change research is to shrink from $5.75 billion a year to just $500 million for the next 4 years. This means more emissions for Australia and less research into what to do about it.

4) Tony Abbot is resisting attempts by the EU to donate to the Green Climate fund. This seems unjust as Tony Abbot is allowing Australia to cause more damage to the atmosphere, but is not willing to help countries that are going to be burdened by its effects. One of my previous blog post discusses governments and injustice.

Taking lessons from China – What can Australia do?

China is at the other end of the scale to Australia, blamed consistently for producing too much CO2 and taking no action on climate change. When in actually fact China is actually one of the leaders in climate change action and Australia could learn a few lessons from them.

  • The 12th Five Year Plan – China will have a 16% reduction in energy intensity, increase renewables by 11.4% and reduce carbon intensity by 17%. $52 billion was invested in renewable energy and fuels in 2011 and 1/3 of China’s electricity is now from renewable energy.
  • Pledges have been made to increase forest coverage by 40 million hectares – Creating a carbon sink zone.
  • China is aiming to reduce its emissions per unit of GDP by 45% by 2020, compared with levels in 2005.

To conclude I pose a question to you, did you ever really consider Australia when discussing climate change culprits? Well for me I hadn’t, I’d focussed like most on the big players/culprits, the US and China. The lesson to be learned is don’t forget to check up on the smaller players, you might find more than you were expecting.

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