Australia Leads World in Carbon Emissions

CANBERRA, Australia, Sept. 14 (UPI) — Australia has surpassed the United States as the world’s biggest per capita producer of carbon emissions, according to a report by a risk consultancy.

The study by British-based Maplecroft released last week finds that Australia tops the CO2 energy emissions index, which measures how much carbon dioxide a country spews into the atmosphere relative to its population size. Carbon emissions are blamed for global warming.

Coal-fired power stations, known for high CO2 emissions, generate about 80 percent of Australia’s electricity.

Maplecroft said Australia’s per capita output is 20.58 tons per person annually. That’s 4 percent higher than the United States, which came in at 19.78 tons, and above all the other 185 countries on the list. The remaining top five on the index were Canada, the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia.

China, which recently overtook the United States as the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter overall, has a per capita average of approximately 4.5 tons per person.

Maplecroft’s findings may help bolster China and India’s position at the U.N. climate change summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December to draw up a new agreement on reducing emissions to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the first phase of which expires in 2012.

Both China and India have been under pressure to set emissions targets but maintain that they should not be required to do so, as their per capita emissions are far lower than those of industrialized nations.

Professor Barry Brook from Australia’s Adelaide University says a global plan of action to cut emissions is more important than the performance of individual countries.

“Ultimately what matters,” Brook told Australian broadcaster ABC News, “is the total global carbon budget. And unless humanity as a whole can find solutions to that problem then all of that petty bickering amongst nations about who’s more or less responsible isn’t really going to be very helpful.”

Mitch Hooke, chief executive of the Minerals Council of Australia, stressed that the issue of climate change should focus on commitments to solutions rather than seeking concessions.

“That’s why we have this continuous per capita debate,” Hooke said, ABC reports. “It’s about trying to shirk blame, it’s about trying to shirk responsibility, yet in actual fact everybody has got to focus on solutions to managing climate change.”

The Australian government has committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by up to 25 percent by 2020. But emissions-trading legislation suffered a parliamentary defeat last month, leaving the 2020 goal in doubt.

Scientists have warned that Australia is especially vulnerable to the effects of global warming and could suffer from more severe bushfires, droughts and storms if temperatures continue to increase. Parts of Australia have experienced their warmest winters on record, which climatologists have partially attributed to the effects of climate change.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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