In the lead up to COP28 Conference in Dubai, a new report by UK and Australian academics reveals that coal, oil and gas exports from Australia, Canada, Norway and the USA amount to 11 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 – which dwarf their domestic emission (except for the US) – and argues that they must take responsibility for reducing their export emissions for any hope of keeping global temperatures below 1.5 degrees C.
UNSW Sydney Professor of Political Philosophy Professor Jeremy Moss has collaborated with University College London Associate Professor of Energy Systems Steve Pye to produce the report: Why fossil fuel exporters must accept their emissions liability.
“As the window of opportunity to limit climate change reduces, it is now morally and practically indefensible for states to advocate for domestic emissions reductions while continuing to increase their fossil fuel exports. This is what is not being discussed at COP,” says Professor Moss.
The report finds that export emissions from the four countries grew by 4.4 per cent per year from 0.5 GtCO2 in 1980 to 3.4 GtCO2 in 2020
“Our calculations show that the cumulative emissions associated with fossil fuel exports from Australia, Canada, Norway and the USA over the next 7 years (to 2030) is equivalent to around 11 per cent of the remaining global carbon budget,” says Associate Professor Pye.
Australia’s ‘exported emissions’ are three times as high as it uses domestically, and Norway’s are thirteen times its domestic emissions, the report finds – but they only set emission reduction targets for the emissions that they generate in their own countries.
“These four Industrialised first world democracies need to play a leading role in taking responsibility not just for reducing their export emissions, but also for the harm those emissions cause. That means increasing their mitigation ambitions, assisting with adaptation, and possibly compensating those harmed through loss and damage provisions,” says Professor Moss.
- States must accept that action on climate change must include reducing their direct domestic emissions as well as the emissions associated with their fossil fuel exports.
- Lack of consideration of the impact of export emissions is a significant roadblock to climate action.
- National (and ambitious) emissions targets should include targets to reduce export emissions and domestic emissions.
- The COP process needs to fully acknowledge the need for a plan to phase out all fossil fuels, including reductions in exports.
- States at COP should adopt an ‘export net zero’ target in addition to a domestic emissions reduction target.
Jeremy Moss is Professor of political philosophy at UNSW Sydney. He is co-author of the recent Oxfam report: If you break it, fix it, and the author of several books on climate change including: Carbon Justice: the Scandal of Australia’s Biggest Contribution to Climate Change. He explains why we have a moral responsibility for all our fossil fuel emissions, including those we export, in this UNSW Sydney video.
Steve Pye is Associate Professor of Energy Systems at University College London. He has published extensively on transitions to low carbon energy systems, with a particular interest in fossil fuel phase out. His widely read 2021 article in Nature titled “Unextractable fossil fuels in a 1.5°C world” argued for leaving the majority of fossil fuels in the ground. He is an author on UNEP’s Production Gap Report, and co-lead of the Redline database .