People

Population growth and carbon emissions were less than previous years, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Australia’s population continued to grow, but more slowly than previous years. Population reached 25.7 million, 17% above the 2000–2019 average.

Population growth slowed down considerably in 2020. The population grew by 188,000; 43% below the average 2000-2019 growth rate, This reduction was due to the effect of COVID-19 border closures on net immigration.

Demand for space and materials increased. The number of building approvals increased for the first time since 2015, increasing by 6% from previous year. 

Greenhouse gas emissions decreased 3.2% from the previous year, due mainly to the impact of COVID-19. Emissions were close to the 2000–2019 average.

Emissions decreased most strongly in transport (-6.7% from the previous year), from waste (-6.7%) from fugitive gases (-4.4%) and electricity generation (4.3%). The only increase was in direct combustion (+3.1%).

According to Government statistics, new forests exceeded forest removals, resulting in a net uptake of 17 Mt CO2-eq. However, this number only accounts for a small part of the landscape carbon balance, and does not include emissions from vegetation decline and bushfires, for example.

Emissions per person fell 3.9% from the previous year and were 14% below the 2000–2019 average. Per capita emissions remain among the highest in the world, at 20.6 t CO2-eq in 2020; greater than for the US (>1.3 times), EU (2.5 times) and world-average (>4 times). Reasons include the high per-capita energy use, the use of polluting coal, and high non-CO2 emissions.

Australian greenhouse gas emissions by category (ex. land cover change) (DoEE)
Australian greenhouse gas emissions by category (ex. land cover change) (DAWE)