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Australia is nuts in agreeing to adopt Net Zero

By Brendan O'Reilly - posted Thursday, 13 January 2022

· The primary source of CO2 emissions in China is coal. About 58 per cent of the total energy derived in China came from coal in 2019, and it is also a huge importer of oil and gas.

· In 2020, China brought 38.4 gigawatts of new coal-fired power into operation, more than three times what was brought on line everywhere else. A total of 247 gigawatts of coal power is now in planning or development, nearly six times Germany's entire coal-fired capacity.

India is the third-largest emitter of CO2 in the world. It produced about 2.65 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2018. Coal as a source of electricity in India has risen from 68 per cent in 1992 to about 75 per cent in 2019.


Russia is the fourth largest contributor to CO2 emissions in the world with 1.71 billion tonnes in 2018. It again shows little interest in green energy. Russia has one of the largest natural gas deposits in the world, and natural gas is its primary source of energy and power generation. Coal is also widely used in Russian industry and power generation.

The U.S. is the second-largest emitter of CO2, with approximately 5.41 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions in 2018. U.S. net emissions declined13 per cent from 2005 to 2019 due to a range of market and policy-related factors. Electric power sector emissions fell 33 percent, mainly as a result of a shift from coal to natural gas. There was also a levelling of electricity demand, and increased use of renewable energy.

Senator Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat, said that he won't support the Biden administration's "Build Back Better" plan. Manchin's decision will likely kill the $1.75 trillion social spending and climate policy bill The bill included US$555 billion worth of subsidies over a decade to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. This included a $12,500 subsidy for the purchase of a US-made electric car built with unionised labour, and US$320 billion of tax deductions for suppliers of wind and solar energy.

With the US Senate likely to knock back Net Zero legislation, and a strong likelihood of a surge in support for the Republicans in coming rounds of elections, the long term future of Net Zero in the US does not look good.

Altogether, none of the world's major economies, including the entire G20, have a climate plan that meets their obligations under the 2015 Paris Agreement. The watchdog Climate Action Tracker (CAT) analysed the policies of 36 countries, as well as the 27-nation European Union, and found that all major economies were off track. These countries together make up 80 per cent of the world's emissions.

Overall government measures across the globe against greenhouse gases have only had a trivial effect. Emissions had barely paused and are now again rising. This is because the nations promising Net Zero are only responsible for 30 per cent of emissions (a figure that drops to a mere 15 per cent if the US is excluded), and many of these are not expected to honour their commitments.


According to the International Energy Agency, to achieve net zero, clean fuels will have to increase from the current 15 per cent of total energy consumption to 55 per cent or higher by 2050 or earlier. Despite pledges by governments, and all the hysteria that the likes of Al Gore, David Attenborough and Prince Charles have been able to create, CO2 emissions have increased by 60 per cent since the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was signed in 1992.

If current expectations for a global economic rebound are confirmed, global emissions are likely to keep rising over the next few years. The International Energy Agency is predicting at least three years of surging demand for coal, just weeks after world leaders failed to agree on its phase-out. "All evidence indicates a widening gap between political ambitions and targets on one side and the realities of the current energy system on the other," the IEA said.

To turn to Australia, what do you think is our biggest export? While iron ore, our biggest single export by value (21.6% share), gets all the publicity, the correct answer is that fossil fuels (when added together) actually are number one.

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About the Author

Brendan O’Reilly is a retired commonwealth public servant with a background in economics and accounting. He is currently pursuing private business interests.

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