Australia's State and Territory emissions: how do they compare?

Australia's state and territory emissions profiles reveal a diverse landscape of greenhouse gas outputs, reflecting variations in geography, population, economic activities, and energy sources across the country.

States with heavy reliance on coal-fired power stations, like New South Wales and Queensland, are among the highest emitters due to their significant energy production and industrial sectors. Queensland, in particular, with its large coal mining operations, contributes a substantial portion of Australia's overall emissions. Tasmania stands out for its low emissions profile, thanks largely to its investment in renewable energy sources such as hydroelectric power, which supplies the majority of its electricity. South Australia has made notable progress in integrating renewable energy, significantly reducing its carbon footprint by embracing wind and solar power. Victoria and Western Australia, with their mix of industrial activities and energy generation methods, fall somewhere in the middle of the emissions spectrum.

Here is a summary of each state and territory.

New South Wales (NSW)

  • Emissions Profile: Predominantly from energy production, with coal-fired power stations contributing significantly, alongside transport and agriculture sectors.
  • Targets: Aiming for a 50% reduction in emissions by 2030 relative to 2005 levels, and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
  • Key Sectors: The largest emissions come from the energy sector, followed closely by transport and agriculture.
  • Challenges: Moving away from coal-based energy production to renewables without jeopardizing the stability of power supply.
  • Opportunities: Expanding renewable energy capacity, particularly in solar and wind, and leveraging its technological sector for innovations in energy efficiency and electric vehicles (EVs) adoption.


  • Emissions Profile: Significant emissions from energy, particularly coal-fired power plants in the Latrobe Valley.
  • Targets: Committed to reducing emissions by 50% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels, with a long-term goal of net-zero by 2050.
  • Key Sectors: Energy, transport, and agriculture are major contributors.
  • Challenges: Transitioning away from brown coal dependency without impacting energy security.
  • Opportunities: Investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements.


  • Emissions Profile: High emissions from coal mining and coal-fired electricity generation, alongside agricultural methane emissions.
  • Targets: Aims for a 30% reduction by 2030 from 2005 levels, eyeing net-zero by 2050.
  • Key Sectors: Mining, energy production, and agriculture dominate emissions.
  • Challenges: Balancing its role as a major coal exporter with climate commitments.
  • Opportunities: Potential for significant solar energy development and land management practices to reduce agricultural emissions.

Western Australia

  • Emissions Profile: Substantial emissions from liquefied natural gas (LNG) processing and mining operations.
  • Targets: Has not set specific emissions reduction targets aligned with the national goals.
  • Key Sectors: Mining and LNG processing are significant, with growing renewable energy sector.
  • Challenges: Integrating renewable energy into a geographically vast state with remote areas.
  • Opportunities: Large-scale renewable energy projects, especially wind and solar.

South Australia

  • Emissions Profile: Lower overall emissions due to a high penetration of renewable energy in the electricity sector.
  • Targets: Targeting a 50% reduction by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050.
  • Key Sectors: Renewable energy has surpassed fossil fuels in electricity generation, with agriculture also a key sector.
  • Challenges: Managing the transition to a fully renewable electricity grid.
  • Opportunities: Leading in wind and solar power, with opportunities for battery storage and green hydrogen.


  • Emissions Profile: The lowest emissions among states, thanks to extensive hydroelectric and growing wind energy use.
  • Targets: Committed to net-zero emissions by 2050, often achieving net-negative emissions due to renewable energy.
  • Key Sectors: Renewable energy, particularly hydroelectric power, with significant forestry and agriculture sectors.
  • Challenges: Maximizing the economic benefits from its renewable energy surplus.
  • Opportunities: Expansion of renewable energy production and exports, including wind energy.

Northern Territory

  • Emissions Profile: Emissions driven by energy production, particularly gas extraction and processing.
  • Targets: Aiming for net-zero emissions by 2050, with interim targets under development.
  • Key Sectors: Energy sector, especially gas, with significant contributions from agriculture.
  • Challenges: Developing renewable energy resources in remote and rural areas.
  • Opportunities: Solar energy development and reducing emissions from land use and agriculture.

Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

  • Emissions Profile: Achieved 100% renewable electricity, with remaining emissions from transport and gas use in buildings.
  • Targets: Committed to net-zero emissions by 2045, with ambitious renewable energy and electric vehicle policies.
  • Key Sectors: Transport now the major source of emissions, followed by natural gas use.
  • Challenges: Reducing transport emissions and transitioning away from natural gas for heating and cooking.
  • Opportunities: Leading in electric vehicle adoption and sustainable public transport options.

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