Cutting our own emissions isn’t enough – it’s our exports that matter too

  Last updated December 2, 2019 at 11:36 am

Topics:  

Countries need to acknowledge that they are responsible for the emissions caused by their fossil fuel exports.


exports_fossil fuel_fossil fuel emissions

Loy Yang Power Station, Traralgon, Victoria, Australia. Credit: David Gray




Why This Matters: We need to be responsible for our fossil fuel emissions – both onshore and offshore.




The latest round of UN climate negotiationsCOP 25 – will begin in Madrid this week. The Conference will attempt to make progress on ramping measures to meet domestic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. But one thing that COP 25 is unlikely to make progress on is the constraint on the supply of fossil fuels.


The Paris agreement was focused on getting states to limit their domestic greenhouse gas emissions. But what has continued unabated since then is support for the production and supply of fossil fuels which are then exported.


We’re the sixth-largest fossil fuel exporter


The UNEP Production Gap Report notes that Governments are planning to produce 50% more fossil fuels than is consistent with meeting a 2°C target, and 120% more than a 1.5°C target by 2030. The main contributor to this supply overshoot is coal.


As the world’s largest exporter of coal, Australia plays a huge role in contributing to this excess supply. Australia is the sixth-largest exporter of fossil fuels but only the 55th largest country by population.




Also: 11,000 scientists declare a climate emergency




As our research has shown, far from being responsible for only 1.3% of global emissions as Prime Minister Scott Morrison claims, we are responsible for closer to 3-4%. Australia is second only to Saudi Arabia as the worst per capita emitter in the world.


fossil fuel exports_fossil fuel_coal

Australia’s is the world’s largest exporter of coal.


Not only is this contribution a significant one to the world’s total emissions, it means we are not bearing our fair share of the sacrifices. Part of the point of having a global climate agreement is that each country does its fair share of shouldering the burden of reducing emissions. Failing to meet our Paris commitments is bad enough, but not doing our bit to reduce supply makes everyone’s task harder.


So what should Australia and other countries do to address the over-supply of fossil fuels?


We need to acknowledge that we’re responsible


The first thing they should do is acknowledge that they are responsible, in part, for the emissions caused by their exports. This may not seem like a big step, but without accepting responsibility countries can’t begin to address the problem.


The COP 25 negotiations should also include supply reduction as well as demand reduction in their agreements. Supplying subsidised, cheap fossil fuels encourages extra demand. It also risks ‘locking in’ infrastructure that relies on fossil fuels thereby making it expensive and wasteful to switch to renewables. Countries need to adopt something akin to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty when it comes to new exploration for fossil fuels.


Countries ought to phase out the support for and supply of fossil fuels. One of the most controversial measures must be the phase out of generous subsidies for fossil fuel producers. The billions that are currently spent each year in Australia on subsidising and encouraging fossil fuel exports are simply not compatible with the spirit of the Paris agreement, even if that agreement doesn’t officially deal with supply issues.




Also: Fossil fuel exports are bad news for two reasons




Phasing out supply also needs to occur. But it needs to occur in a way that doesn’t just pay the current big suppliers to stop. Governments implementing a transition ought to think very carefully about how to fairly deploy scarce resources to ensure a just transition.


What we can be sure of is that there will be many groups demanding compensation, but not all of those groups ought to get assistance. Groups affected by phase-outs will include not just the companies themselves but their workers, towns, associated industries, investors and local governments.


Last but not least, Governments need to recognise and accept that the strong influence that fossil fuel corporations have over the political process is not healthy. The donations, staff rotating between government positions and fossil fuel lobby groups cannot lead to good decisions for the climate. Placing a ban on such influence would go a long way towards addressing the support of supply in Australia.


More Like This


Climate change report shows the current reality, and it’s not pretty


Paris is burning! Carbon emissions on the rise




About the Author

Jeremy Moss
Jeremy Moss is a Professor of Political Philosophy at UNSW. His current research interests include projects on: climate justice, the ethics of renewable energy as well as the ethical issues associated with unconventional gas and fossil fuel exports.

Published By

Featured Videos

Placeholder
Big Questions: Cancer
Placeholder
A future of nanobots in 180 seconds
Placeholder
Multi-user VR opens new worlds for medical research
Placeholder
Precision atom qubits achieve major quantum computing milestone
Placeholder
World's first complete design of a silicon quantum computer chip
Placeholder
Micro-factories - turning the world's waste burden into economic opportunities
Placeholder
Flip-flop qubits: a whole new quantum computing architecture
Placeholder
Ancient Babylonian tablet - world's first trig table
Placeholder
Life on Earth - and Mars?
Placeholder
“Desirable defects: Nano-scale structures of piezoelectrics” – Patrick Tung
Placeholder
Keeping Your Phone Safe from Hackers
Placeholder
Thru Fuze - a revolution in chronic back pain treatment (2015)
Placeholder
Breakthrough for stem cell therapies (2016)
Placeholder
The fortune contained in your mobile phone
Placeholder
Underwater With Emma Johnston
Placeholder
Flip-flop qubits: a whole new quantum computing architecture
Placeholder
The “Dressed Qubit” - breakthrough in quantum state stability (2016)
Placeholder
Pinpointing qubits in a silicon quantum computer (2016)
Placeholder
How to build a quantum computer in silicon (2015)
Placeholder
Quantum computer coding in silicon now possible (2015)
Placeholder
Crucial hurdle overcome for quantum computing (2015)
Placeholder
New world record for silicon quantum computing (2014)
Placeholder
Quantum data at the atom's heart (2013)
Placeholder
Towards a quantum internet (2013)
Placeholder
Single-atom transistor (2012)
Placeholder
Down to the Wire (2012)
Placeholder
Landmark in quantum computing (2012)
Placeholder
1. How Quantum Computers Will Change Our World
Placeholder
Quantum Computing Concepts – What will a quantum computer do?
Placeholder
Quantum Computing Concepts – Quantum Hardware
Placeholder
Quantum Computing Concepts – Quantum Algorithms
Placeholder
Quantum Computing Concepts – Quantum Logic
Placeholder
Quantum Computing Concepts – Entanglement
Placeholder
Quantum Computing Concepts - Quantum Measurement
Placeholder
Quantum Computing Concepts – Spin
Placeholder
Quantum Computing Concepts - Quantum Bits
Placeholder
Quantum Computing Concepts - Binary Logic
Placeholder
Rose Amal - Sustainable fuels from the Sun
Placeholder
Veena Sahajwalla - The E-Waste Alchemist
Placeholder
Katharina Gaus - Extreme Close-up on Immunity
Placeholder
In her element - Professor Emma Johnston
Placeholder
Martina Stenzel - Targeting Tumours with Tiny Assassins
Placeholder
How Did We Get Here? - Why are we all athletes?
Placeholder
How Did We Get Here? - Megafauna murder mystery
Placeholder
How Did We Get Here? - Why are we so hairy?
Placeholder
How Did We Get Here? - Why grannies matter
Placeholder
How Did We Get Here? - Why do only humans experience puberty?
Placeholder
How Did We Get Here? - Evolution of the backside
Placeholder
How Did We Get Here? - Why we use symbols
Placeholder
How Did We Get Here? - Evolutionary MasterChefs
Placeholder
How Did We Get Here? - The Paleo Diet fad
Placeholder
How Did We Get Here? - Are races real?
Placeholder
How Did We Get Here? - Are We Still Evolving?
Placeholder
How Did We Get Here? - Dangly Bits
Placeholder
Catastrophic Science: Climate Migrants
Placeholder
Catastrophic Science: De-Extinction
Placeholder
Catastrophic Science: Nuclear Disasters
Placeholder
Catastrophic Science: Storm Surges
Placeholder
Catastrophic Science: How the Japan tsunami changed science
Placeholder
Catastrophic Science: How the World Trade Centre collapsed
Placeholder
Catastrophic Science: Bushfires