Australia has dodged global attention on fossil fuels because of assiduous diplomatic efforts

(The Guardian, 24 Sep 2019) If the country doubles its coal production, the Paris climate agreement goals cannot be met.

António Guterres is this week hosting a major gathering of world leaders in an attempt to accelerate global action on climate change. The UN secretary general has made tackling fossil fuels, and especially coal, central to the summit’s success. He has urged governments to stop permitting new coal-fired power stations to be built and to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels.

In this context, the countries that are subsidising and facilitating the expansion of coal, oil and gas production merit just as much critical scrutiny as those that are burning these fuels. Just as it would be wrong to tackle smoking by focusing only on smokers and ignoring the efforts of Big Tobacco, it is wrong to tackle the global fossil fuel addiction by ignoring the countries that deal heavily in the product.

When it comes to global fossil fuel dealers, Australia is a kingpin. It is the world’s largest coal exporter, having captured a larger share of the global seaborne coal market than Saudi Arabia has of the global oil market. Australia is the largest liquefied natural gas exporter, too. From 2000 to 2015, Australian coal exports more than doubled and LNG exports tripled, and since then LNG exports have nearly tripled again.

When you tally the greenhouse gases from the fossil fuels exported by each country, Australia’s coal and gas exports total over 1.1bn tonnes of carbon dioxide – more than double its domestic emissions – making it the world’s third largest exporter of fossil carbon, behind only Saudi Arabia and Russia.

You might wonder, then, why so little diplomatic attention is focused on Australia. It’s a testament to the effectiveness of Australia’s assiduous diplomatic efforts on behalf of the fossil fuel industry. Not only does Australia encourage other countries to buy its toxic coal and gas, but it works tirelessly in international forums including the G20 and the UN climate system to ensure that its huge fossil fuel exports are not discussed, let alone criticised.

External link

The Guardian, 24 Sep 2019: Australia has dodged global attention on fossil fuels because of assiduous diplomatic efforts