Australia’s emissions performance has been steadily out of step with efforts to secure a safe climate. As a leading exporter of fossil fuels, the country’s largest contribution to carbon pollution is the burning (overseas) of coal, oil and gas extracted in Australian territory. Nonetheless, the carbon pollution resulting from economic activity within Australian borders is significant and is the subject of a mandated reduction under the Paris Agreement. These emissions have remained on a trajectory far from what is needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C.
Various analyses have consistently drawn attention to the stubbornly high rate of Australian carbon pollution, which must fall sharply to meet Australia’s commitments under the Paris Agreement. Even the unexpected decline in emissions-producing economic activity over the past year, related to the COVID-19 pandemic, has not been sufficient to bring Australia’s carbon pollution down in line with a trajectory that will meet its Paris obligations.
Australian climate policy has vacillated in recent years, in no small part due to the efforts of lobby groups seeking to weaken regulation of carbon pollution. This has allowed a small number of large companies—particularly in fossil fuel intensive industries—to continue with heavily carbon polluting activities. 
The trajectory of sectoral carbon emissions in Australia is charted below in Figure 1. Over the last decade, emissions from electricity—by far the most significant source of carbon pollution in Australia—have declined significantly due to the rapid growth of renewable energy generation. Nonetheless, they are still much higher in aggregate terms than they were in 1990. Emissions from mining have dramatically increased since 2015, largely attributable to the expansion of the Australian LNG industry.
Tom Swann, “High Carbon from a Land Down Under”, The Australia Institute, July 2019. ↩︎
ACCR’s climate program aims to accelerate the energy transition to a low carbon economy in line with the Paris Agreement. We engage with listed companies on their climate risk disclosure and the need to set emissions reduction targets consistent with the Paris Agreement, and we also push for reviews by listed companies of their industry associations’ climate policy advocacy.