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Australia’s True Carbon Emissions Much Higher Than Claimed

If Australia wants to continue presenting itself as an inconsequential greenhouse gas emitter, the world will have to keep on ignoring the country’s significant Scope 3 emissions.

“The Glasgow summit on climate change is looming, and we continue to see Australia pretending to be a small emitter of CO2 on the global stage,” writes Australian financial analyst Adrian Blundell-Wignall in a guest post for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.  

Any honest discussion of Scope 3 emissions would put paid to that pretence, Blundell-Wignall said. But the refusal to have that discussion is nearly universal, with politicians of all stripes putting “their electoral interests ahead of any vision for the future.”

In Australia, the climate-denying government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison claims national responsibility for only 1.15% of global emissions, based strictly on direct (Scope 1) emissions and emissions from purchased electricity and other energy forms (Scope 2). 

However, extrapolating from emissions data gathered by mining companies BHP and Rio Tinto—data that includes the all-important Scope 3—Blundell-Wignall calculates that “Australia is responsible for a total of 3,320 million tonnes (Mt) of CO2 in 2019, roughly five times the official Scope 1 and 2 number.”

On that basis, “instead of 1.15% of global CO2, Australia would be responsible for 9.4% of the world’s CO2, third place globally.”

That Australia is, in truth, a huge emitter, should surprise no one, Blundell-Wignall writes. “Australia is the largest exporter of iron ore, gas, and metallurgical coal. It runs second in thermal coal. They are smelted and burned away from our shores.”

And while the numbers game plays out, “catastrophic climate events trend upwards,” he adds, from an average of 292 per year in the 1990s to 730 in the last decade and a record 980 in 2020, according to date from reinsurance giant Munich Re.