WA emissions weigh down the rest of the nation

by Rod Campbell and Matthew Ryan


Western Australia’s rising emissions means the efforts by other states to reduce emissions are being cancelled out.

Australia’s official greenhouse gas accounts make it clear that Western Australia (WA) is the biggest drag on Australia’s attempts to decarbonise its economy.

Australia’s overall energy emissions have barely changed since 2005 (up just 0.07%), with the reductions in Victoria, NSW and SA being outweighed by increases in the NT, Queensland and WA.

The chart above shows that WA’s energy emissions were almost 27 million tonnes higher in 2021 (latest available) than they were in 2005, the base year for Australia’s emissions reduction targets. WA’s energy emissions grew from 51 million tonnes in 2005 to 77 million tonnes in 2021, an increase of 53%.

The emissions referred to here are energy use by all sectors, including electricity generation, manufacturing, transport and liquefied natural gas (LNG) production.

It is the LNG industry that is driving WA’s energy emissions increases, because of the large amounts of energy used to liquefy gas and load it onto ships for export. The gas industry also creates ‘fugitive emissions’ when methane escapes from the mining, piping and processing of gas. Fugitive emissions in WA more than doubled between 2005 and 2021, from 3.7 million tonnes to 8.5 million tonnes, an increase of 128%.

Far from working to reduce these emissions, the WA Government has approved large new gas projects, set no targets for gas industry emissions reductions and has pressured the state’s Environmental Protection Agency to drop industry emissions reduction efforts.

WA’s rising energy emissions make it harder for Australia to meet its overall targets. Other states will have to do more to overcome increases by WA. How the Federal Government will respond to this challenge remains to be seen.

Between the Lines Newsletter

The biggest stories and the best analysis from the team at the Australia Institute, delivered to your inbox every fortnight.

Sign up

You might also like