Australia tops 'climate criminals' list - now world's biggest polluter



Australia on world globe

Australia has been put on the map for all the wrong reasons.

Credit: Clipart

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It's the one world first that Australia did not want to win - the title of world's biggest polluter.

A report by British risk analysis company Maplecroft has found that Australia has overtaken the United States as the world's largest polluter and is now leading the world in per capita emissions of CO2, topping a list of 185 countries.

The report said Australia's reliance on coal creates an average output of 20.58 tonnes of CO2 per person, ahead of the United States which comes in at 19.78 tonnes.

China is still ranked as the world's worst overall polluter but even then, it has a per capita average of about 4.5 tonnes. In other words, Australia produces nearly five times as much CO2 per head of population as the world's largest nation.

The report shows how much work Australia has to do to achieve a global emissions reduction target, particularly as it has the highest per capita rate in the world.

It also signals the difficulties Australia might face at the Copenhagen summit in December.

Tony Mohr, climate change program manager at the Australian Conservation Foundation, said it would give Australia a real credibility problem at the summit when dealing with developing countries and put more pressure on Australia to fund their efforts tackling climate change.

"For so long we have had so little in terms of climate change policy and our emission per capita is just so bad,'' Mohr said.

"Countries like India have regularly argued for so long that per capita emissions is a reason why they don't have to do so much and developed countries need to do more. It will provide them with well founded ammunition to say to Australia you can ask these things of us but until we see some sort of evidence that you are walking the talk back at home we're not convinced you are serious. It's all very well to talk about targets and numbers but you need to show you have enough policies on the ground that's going to be able to pull those emissions down," he said.

"Countries like India and China will be able to say you have such a high greenhouse gas intensity, your targets need to be stronger and your assistance to developing countries needs to larger."

The study coincides with the alarming findings in the first ever carbon competitiveness reports showing that Australia ranked among the worst in the world for being carbon competitive. The Climate Institute report, which analysed productivity versus emissions, ranked Australia 15th in an analysis of its capacity to generate business in a low carbon economy. This was the lowest position of any industrialised country.

Greens deputy leader Christine Milne attacked the Rudd Government's support for high polluting industries, including its automotive industry package. "The Rudd Government's obsession with sandbagging jobs in the biggest polluting sectors of our economy is short-sighted in the extreme and bound to end in tears,'' she said.

"Billions of dollars are being handed out to polluters under the pretense of protecting jobs, while sunrise industries which promise to create far more, higher quality jobs are left begging."

Greenpeace head of campaigns Steve Campbell said Australia's reliance on coal needed winding back if emission were to be reduced.

"This Government's coal addiction is placing us not only at the top of a roll call of shame, but also placing the economy at risk," Campbell said.

"Our fossil fuel dependency along with the massive public subsidies poured into the coal industry are preventing the new clean energy economy, which flourishes elsewhere in the world, from getting a foothold here.

"The Government can tout it's Continue Polluting Regardless Scheme all it wants, but while presiding over a massive coal expansion, and proffering some of the lowest unconditional reduction targets in the world, Australians will see through it," he said.

"There is growing community anger at Kevin Rudd's hollow promises on tackling climate change. The Government needs to return Australia to a world leading position - taking a lead on climate change, taking a lead on creating the hundred of thousands of good quality green energy jobs in our reach, taking a lead on innovation, creativity and investment - not the top of the worlds worst climate criminals list."