• Think tank Ember highlights Aus had highest coal power emissions per capita in G20 and OECD
  • 4 tonnes of carbon dioxide were released for every Australian 
  • This is an improvement from levels during 2015 to 202, which saw 5.3 tonnes of CO2 emitted 

New analysis by global energy think tank, Ember, shows Australia had the highest coal power emissions per capita among the world’s major economies in 2021, topping the list as the world’s worst polluter in both the G20 and OECD.

 Emissions from coal power
Pic: Ember

Australia burns so much coal to produce electricity that four tonnes of carbon dioxide were released for every Australian in 2021, in comparison to the average 1.1 tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted by each person globally.

However grim, these results still signify an improvement.

Between 2015 to 2020, the average Australian emitted 5.3 tonnes of CO2 per year solely due to the amount of coal burned to generate the country’s electricity.

“In 2021, there were fewer coal emissions due to a renewables boom that saw Australia shift 9% of its electricity demand from fossil fuels to wind and solar in just two years,” Ember says.

“From 2019 to 2021, wind and solar rose from 13% to 22%, whilst the share of fossil fuels fell from 79% to 70%. However, it was still not enough to improve Australia’s global position.”


Contributed to more than half electricity in 2021

According to the analysis, Australia remained the second-most coal-dependent country in the OECD after Poland, relying on coal for over half of its electricity in 2021 (51%).

A further 18% of Australia’s electricity came from fossil gas. Unlike other countries that have lots of legacy hydro and nuclear plants, only 29% of Australia’s electricity was clean in 2021.

Ember’s global lead Dave Jones said burning coal on this scale is setting the stage for many fire seasons to come.

“The single biggest action the world can take to tackle the climate crisis is to rapidly transition away from antiquated coal power and towards the clean and renewables-based electricity system of the future,” he said.

“Australia’s solar boom is reducing coal use, but there is still a long way to go.”


Not the first time to rank poorly on climate analysis

This isn’t the first time Australia has scored poorly on climate analysis.

Dating back to 2014, Australia has continuously performed “very low” in the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI), an independent monitoring tool tracking the Paris Agreement’s implementation phase among 60 countries and the European Union.

Last year, Australia ranked 55th overall – slumping four places compared to its 2020 score – but finished dead last in climate policy, the only country to receive no score in that category.