Climate change performance: The United Kingdom vs. Australia

Climate change performance: The United Kingdom vs. Australia


The United Kingdom and Australia and are the world’s 15th and 16th largest emitters of CO2 from Fossil Fuels and cement. Combined, the two countries were responsible for 2.2% of world CO2 Emissions in 2015. The following examines the ‘Indicators’ of CO2 Emissions, GDP(ppp-$) and Ecological Footprint (without carbon footprint).

The diagrams below show the per capita CO2 Emissions from Fossil Fuel (without bunkers) and cement, since 2000. The green bars show the Free Emission Level¹ – the exceedance is the basis for calculating the national Climate Debt.

The United Kingdom’s emissions from coal decreased by 68% between 1971 and 2014 (coal still caused 28% of the CO2 Emissions from Fossil Fuels in 2014). Australia’s emissions from coal decreased by 23% between the record year 2009 and 2014 (coal caused 45% of the CO2 Emissions from Fossil Fuels in 2014).

The next two diagrams show the United Kingdom’s and Australia’s CO2 Emissions in tons per capita, in decades. The United Kingdom must reduce emissions by 62% in 2020, compared to 1990s, while Australia must reduce by 70%. The grey bars are world emissions average.

The diagram below shows the relative per capita Climate Debt of the two countries, in comparison with China, New Zealand and Ireland – with the world’s average Climate Debt set at 100. The current per capita Climate Debt of the United Kingdom is $1,064 while Australia’s is $6,116 (see the latest ‘Ranking‘).

[Some figures in this article were corrected 22/5 2017]

The diagram below shows the per capita GDP(ppp-$) of the same five countries and the world average. The Australian economy slowed down slightly in 2015.

The next diagram (below) shows Climate Debt of the five countries calculated as percentage of GDP(ppp-$), annually since 2000. See the updated ‘Ranking‘.

The Ecological Footprint per capita (without carbon footprint) of the United Kingdom, Australia and China, in comparison with an average country (set at 100), is shown below. Australia ranks 2nd among 172 countries (the cropland footprint acounts for 60%).

Finally, the table below shows four key values of the five countries, in the calculation of national Climate Debts in ClimatePositions. The price of CO2 per ton (column two) is for total CO2 Emission from Fossil Fuels (without bunkers) and cement. Climate change financing (column three) is from March 2017.

. Tons of CO2 Price per Climate change Financing as
. exceeded since ton CO2 financing share of
. 2000, per capita since 2000 per capita Climate Debt
. . . . .
United Kingdom 21.17 $8.75 $70.77 6.65%
Australia 105.60 $22.49 $19.43 0.32%
China 47.35 $7.86 $0.01 0.00%
New Zealand 37.41 $13.63 $3.05 0.18%
Ireland 40.95 $17.77 $12.93 0.48%


¹The Free Emission Level (green bars) is determined by national CO2 Emissions 1990-1999 (baseline), and eleven more ‘Indicators‘, of which seven are national and four are global.

²Countries with decreased Climate Debt as percentage of GDP(ppp-$) between 2010 and 2015: Slovakia, Botswana, Jamaica, Denmark, United Kingdom, Costa Rica, Armenia and Namibia.


Updated data and diagrams of all ‘Indicators‘ and all countries in ClimatePositions are available in the menu ‘Calculations (Excel)‘.
Data on carbon emissions (CO2 Emissions) from fossil fuels (without bunkers) and cement production are from Global Carbon Project (CDIAC); (links in the menu “Calculations / Sources and Links”).
Data on energy CO2 Emissions from Coal, Oil and Gas are from ‘‘ (CO2 Highlights, Excel).
Information on national GDP(ppp-$) per capita: Worldbank (links in the menu “Calculations / Sources and Links”).
Source on Ecological Footprint: Global Footprint Network (links in the menu “Calculations / Sources and Links”).
Drawing by Claus Andersen, 2017.

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