Australians world’s seventh biggest polluters: global report

Posted on 15 May 2012  | 
Satellite image of Holbox Island and the Yalahau Lagoon, Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula
Satellite image of Holbox Island and the Yalahau Lagoon, Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula
© KARI / ESA Enlarge
Australia’s carbon emissions are the top contributor to its new ranking as the world’s seventh biggest user and polluter of natural resources, according to a biennial report which measures the impact of human demands on nature.



WWF’s 2012 Living Planet Report, produced with the European Space Agency, the Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network, reveals that humans are using 50 per cent more resources than the Earth can provide, and will need two planets by 2030 to support current rates of consumption and pollution.

Australian residents have the seventh largest environmental impact on the planet’s natural resources, after residents of Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Denmark, the USA and Belgium. Australia’s ranking has risen by one place since 2010.



If everyone on the planet lived like the average Australian, it would take 3.76 planets to support the world population.

The findings underscore the critical importance to Australia of staying the course on pricing carbon, in the face of short-sighted resistance.

"Australia has some of the world's best renewable energy resources and know-how to be able to significantly reduce our carbon footprint. The Carbon Price and Renewable Energy Target are key mechanisms that together will drive the shift from coal to renewables,” said WWF Australia’s Climate Change Manager Kellie Caught.

“Just like the industrial revolution brought benefits to society, the carbon price will drive a new clean revolution that will have health and economic benefits but critically give our precious environment a fighting chance.”

The 2012 edition of the LPR highlights the crippling impact of carbon on the whole planet’s life support system. Carbon dioxide pollution currently accounts for over half of humanity’s Ecological Footprint.

The Ecological Footprint Index tracks the area of biologically productive land and water required to provide the renewable resources people use, and includes the space needed for infrastructure and vegetation to absorb carbon dioxide waste.

Australians require 6.68 global hectares1 per person to support their consumption and pollution levels, representing a slight improvement on their 2010 rate of 6.8 global hectares per person.

Australia’s carbon footprint - the amount of forest land that could sequester carbon dioxide emissions - is the biggest factor in its huge ecological impact. Australians require 2.68 global hectares per person to absorb the carbon pollution they emit, ahead of the global average of 1.47 gha per capita.

The report also documents the changing state of biodiversity through the Living Planet Index. The latest index shows a 30 per cent decrease in abundance of populations of species since 1970, with the tropics hardest hit - showing a 60 per cent decline in less than 40 years. Tracked populations of freshwater tropical species have fallen by nearly 70 per cent.

The 2012 report offers 16 priority solutions to enable the world’s population to live within the means of one planet. They include measuring the value of natural capital, reducing consumption, and redirecting financial flows, for example by eliminating subsidies underpinning fossil fuel use.

“Rethinking business is vital for our future. Business needs nature. They have a bottom-line interest in ensuring that the resources they depend on are sustainable,” said Dermot O’Gorman, Chief Executive of WWF Australia.

“Australia’s population is growing and our resources are depleting. By 2050 the global population will be over 9 billion. If we rethink the way we manage our resources, we will have the capacity to provide food, water and energy for all.”


1. A global hectare – as opposed to a physical hectare - measures the amount of biologically productive land and water area required to produce the resources an individual, population or activity consumes and to absorb the waste it generates, given prevailing technology and resource management.


WWF-Australia contacts:
Charlie Stevens, WWF-Australia Media Manager, 0424 649 689

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