Guide to going carbon neutral

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  • Updated:3 Nov 2007

02.Australia's poor record

Australia has the fourth highest greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, per capita, in the world, as the graph below shows. At 25.6 tonnes per person, we emit more than twice the EU average and four times the world average.

Per capita figures are calculated by dividing the total emissions Australia produces, including emissions from industry and agriculture, by our population. Because all such emissions are included, the per capita figure is much higher than individual household emissions (around 14 tonnes).

It’s not just households that are responsible for greenhouse pollution — the Australian agricultural, business and export sectors, as well as the government, need to take responsibility too.

There’s a link between emissions and income per capita. People in wealthy countries (and wealthy suburbs in Australia) are likely to have higher emissions. Four of the five highest per capita emitters are gulf countries Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Bahrain, which have small populations and export highly GHG intensive commodities.

If you look at total emissions rather than per capita, you get a different view. While China, with a large population, had comparatively low per capita emissions, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency recently ranked its total emissions as the world’s highest, with the US in second place.

The 2005 study (using data from 2000) found that Australia, which produces around 1.5% of world GHGs, was in sixteenth place in terms of overall emissions.

Using Australian Greenhouse Office (AGO) data, we calculate that Australia’s carbon dioxide equivalent emissions rose by 1.4% between 2000 and 2005.


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World ranking per capita greenhouse gas emissions


Emissions per capita

Source: World Resources Institute, 2005, using data from 2000.
Numbers in brackets are the country’s per capita greenhouse gas emission world ‘ranking’.