Australia, South Korea Are G20’s Top Coal Polluters Per Capita

New analysis by energy think tank Ember finds that per capita coal power pollution in more than half of the G20 economies is declining. However, despite continued decline, the top two coal polluters, Australia and South Korea, are still far ahead; a position they have held since 2020.

This showcases that the pace of clean transition, which is one of the key drivers to phase down coal, is not fast enough. Coal reliance continues in the group’s major economies, increasing in countries such as China which falls to third place for per capita coal emissions.

Australia and South Korea are on average the G20’s top two coal polluters, each emitting three times more coal emissions per capita than the average person in the world. Although they have also had their coal emissions per capita declining, they are still far ahead as the top two.

Over half of the world’s largest economies have seen coal emissions per capita declining as a result of policies that ramp up renewables, 12 out of 20 G20 economies have seen declining per capita coal emissions since 2015. However, emissions in some emerging economies were still increasing in 2022.

Pace Still Not Fast Enough

The speed of clean transition is not fast enough to help drive fossil phasedown and keep 1.5C within the limit, the think tank says.

Top polluters such as Australia and South Korea decreased their per capita coal emissions by 26% and 10% respectively since 2015. But, as their starting point was far ahead, they still lead in coal pollution by more than three times the world average.

The G20 accounts for 80% of global emissions. Within the group, however, an individual’s coal emissions in 2022 were notably higher, with per capita figures reaching 1.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide, compared to the global average of 1.1 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

With the nearing deadline to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5C, G20 countries must be united in their efforts to triple renewables and plan for rapid and deep cuts in coal power generation.

Dave Jones Global Insights Lead, at Ember said: “China and India are often blamed as the world’s big coal power polluters. But when you take population into account, South Korea and Australia were the worst polluters still in 2022. As mature economies, they should be scaling up renewable electricity ambitiously and confidently enough to enable coal to be phased out by 2030.”