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Australia Current situation

What is Australiaʼs pathway to limit global warming to 1.5°C?

Emissions profile

According to 2020 government figures, Australia’s emissions were 537 MtCO₂e/yr, excluding LULUCF. Electricity was the largest contributor accounting for 32% excluding LULUCF.12 This sector is dominated by fossil fuels as coal and gas represented the highest shares of power generation, at 54% and 20% respectively.3

Stationary energy is the second largest contributor to emissions, representing 19%, excluding LULUCF. These emissions are from burning fuels for energy excluding power generation and transport, e.g., for heat, steam and pressure. Stationary energy emissions have increased 13% in 2016-2020 primarily driven by LNG emissions, which increased by 127% in this period.12

Transport represents 17% of total emissions excluding LULUCF.5 This sector saw a small dip in emissions from 2019 to 2020 related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but is expected to rebound to 2019 levels by 2024.12

Current policy projections show that Australia’s emissions will decrease by 15% (reaching 445 MtCO₂e/yr) below 2005 levels by 2030, excl. LULUCF, well short of the 45-56% emissions reductions (229-286 MtCO₂e/yr in 2030) required to be 1.5°C compatible.49

1 Australian Government. Australia’s Nationally Determined Contribution Communication 2022. 2022.

2 Australian Government. Australia’s Nationally Determined Contribution Communication 2021. 2021.

3 Australian Government. Australian Energy Update 2022. Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water. 2022.

4 Reputex. The Economic Impact of the ALP’s Powering Australia Plan. 2021.

5 IEA. Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Energy 2021 Edition. 2021.

6 Australian Government. National construction code (NCC) updates mean energy efficiency ratings expansion for new residences. Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water. 2022.

7 Australian Government. Trajectory for Low Energy Buildings. Department of Climate Change, the Environment, Energy and Water. 2019.

8 Australian Government. Safeguard Mechanism reform: consultation paper. Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water. 2022.

9 Australian Government. Australia’s Long-term Emissions Reduction Plan. 2021.

10 Parliament of Australia. Climate Change Bill 2022. 2022.

11 Climate Action Tracker. Australia. August 2022 update. Climate Action Tracker. 2022.

12 Australian Government. Australia’s emissions projections 2021. 2021.

13 AEMO. 2022 Integrated System Plan For the National Electricity Market. 2022.

14 Hurst, D. Australia could send extra gas to Europe as Russia cuts supplies due to Ukraine tensions. The Guardian. 2022.

15 Woodside. AGM Address by Chairman Richard Goyder and CEO Meg O’Neill. 2022.

16 AEMO. Gas Statement of Opportunities. 2022.

17 Australian Government. Legacy of ongoing Morrison Government fossil fuel handouts. 2022.

18 Morton, A. & Touma, R. Labor urged to axe $1.9bn in ‘zombie’ fossil fuel subsidies promised by the Coalition. The Guardian. 2022.

19 King, M. New offshore greenhouse gas storage acreage to help lower emissions. The Hon Madeleine King MP Media Releases. 2022.

20 King, M. Speech at the Asia Pacific Oil and Gas Conference, Adelaide. The Hon Madeleine King MP Media Releases. 2022.

21 Australian Government. Emissions Reduction Fund White Paper. 2014.

22 COAG Energy Council. National Energy Productivity Plan 2015-2030. 2015.

23 Australian Government. Renewable Energy Target. Clean Energy Regulator. 2022.

24 Parkinson, G. Australia officially met renewable target in January, despite big project delays. Renew Economy. 2021.

25 Climate Analytics. Submission to the Australian Government’s review of the Safeguard Mechanism. 2022.

26 Parra, P. Y., Hare, B., Hutfilter, U. F. & Roming, N. Evaluating the significance of Australia’s global fossil fuel carbon footprint. 2019.

27 Department of Industry Science Energy and Resources. Australian Energy Update 2020, Australian Energy Statistics. 2020.

28 Australian Government. Trade and Investment at a Glance. 2020.

29 Readfearn, G. Australian coal burnt overseas creates nearly twice the nation’s domestic emissions. The Gaurdian. 2021.

30 Wood, T., Dundas, G. & Ha., J. Start with steel. 2020.

31 Marshall, L. Building a clean hydrogen industry for Australia. CSIRO. 2021.

32 Climate Action Tracker. Australia. CAT Scaling Up Climate Action series. Climate Action Tracker. 2020.

33 Climate Analytics. FACTSHEET 4: Australia’s Industry Inefficient and standing still. 2018.

34 Reputex. The Economic Impact of the ALP’s Powering Australia Plan. 2021.

35 Macintosh, A. et al. The ERF’s Human-induced Regeneration (HIR): What the Beare and Chambers Report Really Found and a Critique of its Method. 2022.

36 Randall, T. Clean Energy Has a Tipping Point, and 87 Countries Have Reached It. Bloomberg Green. 2022.

37 Australian Government. Australia reaches the 3 million solar milestone. Clean Energy Regulator. 2021.

38 Clean Energy Council. Clean Energy Australia Report. 2022.

39 Lewis, J. Chevron’s flagship Gorgon CCS project still failing to live up to expectations. Upstream. 2022.

40 Readfearn, G. Gas giant Chevron falls further behind on carbon capture targets for Gorgon gasfield. The Guardian. 2022.

41 Smit, R., Dia, H. & Surawski, N. The road to new fuel efficiency rules is filled with potholes. Here’s how Australia can avoid them. The Conversation. 2022.

42 The Centre for International Economics. What existing economic studies say about Australia’s cost of abatement. 2019.

43 Climate Change Authority. Light Vehicle Emissions Standards for Australia. 2014.

44 The Centre for International Economics. What existing economic studies say about Australia’s cost of abatement. 2019.

45 Australian Government. Budget October 2022-23: Budget Measures Budget Paper No . 2. (2022).

46 Australian Government. National Electric Vehicle Strategy: consultation paper. Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water. 2022.

47 We have derived the excl. LULUCF target from 2005 emissions level in the government’s Paris Agreement inventory and 2030 LULUCF projections in the Government projections published in 2022 of -33 MtCO₂e. Both these sources use global warming potentials (GWP) from the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). As the 1.5°C national pathway explorer uses GWPs from the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), we have converted the government’s emissions data to AR4 using an average conversion factor of 0.98 (AR4=0.98*AR5). For reference, the AR5 GWP weighted 2030 emissions based on for reference, the AR5 GWP numbers based on the most recent inventory the most recent inventory is 388 MtCO₂e/yr excluding LULUCF in 2030.

48 Based on Government LULUCF projections which use AR5 GWP (-16 MtCO₂e/yr in 2030). Here we have applied the government LULUCF projections growth rates to the latest LULUCF historical data in the Paris Agreement Inventory, and estimate a LULUCF sink of -26 MtCO₂e/yr by 2030 using AR4 GWP. Historic LULUCF emissions for 2005 have also been converted to AR4.

49 The 2022 projections including LULUCF for 2030 are for about a 32% reduction, 11% short of the Governments 43% target.

50 For a critique of the effectiveness of this mechanism, see Climate Action Tracker’s analysis of Australia’s current policies. For discussion of the associated Safeguard Mechanism, see Submission on Safeguard Mechanism reform.

51 This is consistent with the Climate Targets Panel in Australia “fair share” reductions for Australia in 2030 of 74% from 2005 emission levels including LULUCF based on earlier Climate Change Authority work. The overall fair share contribution includes domestic emissions reductions and substantial support for emission reductions in developing countries on top of its domestic reductions.

Australiaʼs current GHG emissions


Displayed values

By sector

  • Power
  • Transport
  • Fugitive emissions
  • Industry (energy use)
  • Buildings
  • Other
  • Agriculture
  • Industry (processes)
  • Waste
Energy (78%)⟵ LULUCF negative emissions

By gas

  • CO₂
  • CH₄
  • N₂O
  • Other

Sectors by gas

Industry (processes)

Energy system

Australia’s fuel mix is largely fossil fuel based. As of 2020, coal, oil and gas made up 29%, 37%, and 27% of energy consumption, with renewables, accounting for 7%. In 2020, coal and gas had a 54% and 20% generation share in the power sector, respectively, while renewables, including biomass, stood at 25%.3

Domestic coal consumption has declined by 28% since 2008.3 The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) projects that 8 GW of the current 23 GW of coal fired power capacity will retire by 2030.13

AEMO forecasts a likely decline in domestic gas use.12 However, total consumption is likely to remain close to 2000 PJ/yr as the government and LNG industry are using the Russian gas crisis as a rationale for expanding gas production.1416

Australia’s previous government had pledged AUD 2 billion in fossil fuel financing under their ‘gas-fired recovery’.17 The Labor government has yet to clarify the status of these spending announcements.18 At the same time, it is continuing with policies that support the LNG industry and touting carbon capture and storage (CCS) as a viable means for reducing emissions.19,20

Targets and commitments

Economy-wide targets

Target type

Base year emissions target

NDC target

  • 43% below 2005 by 2030 (incl. LULUCF).1
  • 29% below 2005 by 2030 (excl. LULUCF).

Market mechanism

  • Emissions reduction fund: allows Australian businesses to earn carbon credits per tonne of GHG emissions reduced or stored. The businesses can in turn sell these credits to earn income.21,50

Long-term target

  • Net zero emissions by 2050.9

Sector coverage


Greenhouse gas coverage


Sectoral targets


  • Improve energy productivity by 40% from 2015 to 2030.22


  • Renewable energy target to have 33,000 GWh of power come from renewables by 2020.23 This was met in January 2021.24
  • The governing Labor party’s Powering Australia Plan is projected to result in an 82% renewable energy penetration on the National Electricity Market by 2030.4