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Australia Post 2023 Clean Energy Win, CO2 Emissions Persist

Australia’s power sector in 2023 has hit its lowest annual emissions from electricity generation this century due to sharp reductions in fossil fuel use and a significant rise in clean energy production.

However, the overall carbon footprint down under is expected to keep taking a higher route.

Australia, the second-biggest exporter of thermal coal and liquefied natural gas (LNG), represents about half of electricity generation and over 90% of all power sector emissions.

Despite the low emissions last year, the nation’s per capita contribution to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is still one of the highest worldwide, which could hinder pollution reduction goals in the long term should large-scale coal and gas exports continue.

Data from Ember, meanwhile, showed that Australia produced a record 87 terawatt hours (TWh) of clean electricity in 2023, boosting the share of clean power in total electricity output to a record 38%.

Concurrently, power companies reduced using fossil fuels in generating electricity for the sixth consecutive year and reached the lowest annual power sector emissions since 2000. That aligned with goals to expedite carbon reduction initiatives down under.

For the whole of the previous year, power companies increased solar-powered electricity to a record 41.36 TWh, while wind generation hit an all-time high of 30.11 TWh. Electricity output from hydro sources, on the other hand, saw a slight decline to 15.28 TWh.

Coal-generated electricity also slipped to a multi-decade low of 123 TWh in the same period, and natural gas-fired output fell below 20 TWh for the first time since 2000.

Additionally, total CO2 emissions from fossil fuels in power generation were down about 128 million metric tons in 2023, a 25% stumble from 2015 levels.

Australia’s CO2 Export Emissions Remained Substantial

Australia’s domestic carbon reduction is at risk of being undone by rising emissions linked to locally sourced coal and gas burned in power plants overseas.

Australia shipped almost 198 million metric tons of thermal coal the year earlier, marking its third-highest total ever, and a record 182 million cubic meters of LNG, making the country no. 2 in global shipments of the two commodities.

As a share of overall trade, Australia accounted for approximately 20% of thermal coal and LNG transported worldwide in 2023.

In 2022, the nation’s significant power fuel shipments placed it in third globally in CO2 emissions per capita, data showed.

Meanwhile, Qatar, the leading LNG exporter, had the highest per capita CO2 emissions at 37.6 tons, followed by Saudi Arabia at 18.2 tons per capita.

Australia’s 15 tons of CO2 emission per capita is better than Qatar’s total, although it is three times over the global average of 4.7 tons.

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