Australia has maintained for some time now that it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by between 26 per cent to 28 per cent by 2030 under the Paris climate agreement.

Let’s just ignore accusations that carrying over credits from the superseded Kyoto protocol has been compared to cheating, or that even meeting its objective could require Australia to slash its emissions by at least 50 per cent by 2030.

Instead of those certainly unfounded comments, we will instead look at data from BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy 2020 which shows that Australian energy consumption increased by 6.9 per cent to 6.41 exajoules (about 1.1 per cent of the world’s total energy consumption in 2019).

More tellingly, rather than dropping, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions increased by 4.2 per cent in the same period to 428.3 million tonnes, or about 1.3 per cent of the world’s total carbon emissions.

Australia emissions on the world stage

This gels into the broader picture which shows that while global energy production has become greener over the past decade, we are still a long way from achieving net zero emissions by the middle of this century – the target set by several countries.

Worldwide energy consumption has increased at a compound annual rate of 1.9 per cent in the 10 years before the COVID-19 pandemic while energy-related CO2 emissions increased at an average rate of 1.4 per cent during the same period.

The reduction in CO2 emissions is due to the replacement of coal-fired power by renewable energy along with improvements in combustion efficiency.

Advanced economies in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which Australia is a member of, saw only a small 0.4 per cent increase in energy consumption along with a -0.4 per cent fall in emissions.

However, energy consumption in developing economies rose by 3.1 per cent while emissions increased by an average of 2.5 per cent.

To make matters worse, while OECD energy-related emissions peaked as long ago as 2007 according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2020, there is no sign of a similar peak in the rest of the world.

While both the energy consumption and emissions figures almost certainly plunged in 2020 thanks to the travel restrictions put in place to control the spread of COVID-19, they are just as certainly likely to increase once lockdowns ease and the economy recovers.

Major countries have committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050 or 2060 (not Australia though), however there is still a distinct lack of a roadmap for the deployment of technologies that can reduce emissions such as efficiency gains; electrification; wind, solar and nuclear power; carbon capture and storage; and hydrogen.