Australia overtakes USA as world's top polluter

by Published Wed 09 Sep 2009 20:51, Last updated: 2009-09-09
Australia overtakes US in pollution league

Australia has overtaken the USA and is now classified most at risk of 185 countries, according to the CO2 Energy Emissions Index (CEEI), released by UK-based global risks analyst Maplecroft.

The CEEI, one of the four main components of Maplecroft’s Climate Change Risk Report 2009/10, measures per capita CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and ranks Australia, USA, Canada, the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia as the top five offenders.

Australians now emit 20.58 tons of CO2 per person annually, whereas Americans emit 19.78 tons - almost a four percent difference. Canada, meanwhile, emits 18.81 tons per person.

In sharp contrast the emerging markets of China and India, considered two of the world’s worst overall CO2 polluters, emit an annual total of 4.5 and 1.16 tons per person respectively.

Brazil and China have been pushing rich countries to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by 40 percent or more and Brazil is calling for historic emissions to be the basis for greenhouse gas pollution targets. The Brazilian government argues that the onus should be on developed nations to do more.

The CEEI consists of three indicators: total CO2 emissions from energy, CO2 emissions from energy use per capita and cumulative CO2 emissions from energy use. The index assesses the risk to businesses operating in countries that may be subject to future international regulation on CO2 emissions and pressure from public interest groups. It has been designed to take account of current international climate negotiations and probable future climate change regulation.

Brazil ranked second highest for emissions from land use change.

Maplecroft’s CO2 Emissions from Land Use Change Index (CELCI) provides insight into changes in forest biomass due to deforestation as well as land use change in a country. The index incorporates measures of net CO2 emissions or sequestration resulting from an increase or decrease in the volume of forest biomass and changes to land use.

According to the CELCI, the countries ranked at greatest risk are Peru, Brazil and Venezuela.

However, Brazil’s position in this ranking may well improve over the coming years. In 2008, Brazil abandoned years of opposition to deforestation targets and pledged to reduce destruction of the Amazon by 50 percent in a decade.

Official data released in August 2009 reveals that Brazil is making progress towards this goal; in part due to the provision of opportunities for carbon offset through reforestation and forest planting programmes. The Environment Minister, Carlos Minc, predicts that deforestation could fall to a 20-year-low in the coming year.

Australia is considered at extreme risk, but Middle East oil producers top the ranking for unsustainable energy use.

Australia’s poor environmental performance is compounded by its ranking of 33 out of 135 countries in Maplecroft’s Unsustainable Energy Index (UEI). The only industrialised nations in a worse position are Belgium and the Netherlands.

The UEI assesses a country's risk of being unable to obtain energy from low carbon sources and operating, investing and lending in an energy intensive economy. Over the longer term, reliance on unsustainable energy may also impact on the economy of some countries, in particular those that are heavily reliant on fossil fuels.

Qatar (1/135), Bahrain (3/135), Iraq (9/135), the United Arab Emirates (10/135) and Saudi Arabia (15/135) all feature in the top 15 countries at greatest risk. In 2008, oil prices fell sharply from US$100 per barrel in July to under US$50 per barrel in December. These price swings bring about much instability. The Institute of International Finance predicts that countries including Saudi Arabia may have to dip into reserves to balance the nation’s budgets over the longer term, if the situation continues.

Maplecroft’s Climate Change Report 2009/10 consists of the Climate Change Vulnerability Index, the CO2 Emissions from Land Use Index (CELI) and the Unsustainable Energy Index (UIE). The report is accompanied by interactive GIS maps and has been created for multinational organisations seeking to quantify and mitigate the risk of climate change on their operations, supply chains and investments.

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