Australia’s economy is the worst-placed in the rich world to stay competitive when global efforts to curb climate change force a price on carbon-dioxide emissions, a report released on Monday found.
Australia ranked 15th in its ability to generate business in a low-carbon world, according to an analysis commissioned by London-based think tank E3G and Sydney’s The Climate Institute.
Only South Africa, India, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia had lower rankings. France, Japan, Britain, South Korea and Germany ranked highest for carbon competitiveness, because of their energy efficiency measures and their shift from reliance on coal for power generation.
In a preface to the report, economist and climate campaigner Lord Nicholas Stern said the global economic downturn provided an opportunity for countries like Australia to improve energy efficiency.
“Countries which don’t seize this opportunity will undermine their future competitiveness,” Mr. Stern said.
Climate Institute head John Connor said that Australia had more work to do than any other nation to decouple economic growth from carbon emissions.
“We’re coming at the back of the pack in terms of how efficient our economies are and how we can be helping towards a global agreement,” he said. “This is something which puts our jobs and living standards at risk if we don’t get on with economy-wide measures to change our economy to cut carbon pollution and to increase our productivity.” Australians are the world’s worst carbon-dioxide polluters per capita, according to the British risk assessment company Maplecroft Ltd. The United States, Canada, the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia round out the top five emitters of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels in the per capita list Maplecroft released last week.
Australia has an average output of 20.5 tons of carbon dioxide per person per year, compared with 19.7 tons for the US, 4.5 tons for China and just 1.1 tons for India.