How will Australia meet “net zero” with 50% more people?

With the fierce debate around Australia meeting its “net zero” emissions obligations by 2050, it is worth asking how this target could realistically be achieved with the nation projected in the latest Intergenerational Report (IGR) to add 13.1 million people (a 50% increase) over the next 40 years on the back of extreme immigration levels of 235,000 people a year?

As we know, various vested interests and even the NSW Government has called for an even stronger migration program to make up for the “lost immigration” over the pandemic, which would see Australia’s population grow even more strongly than projected above.

Curiously, there has been minimal push back from climate action groups or environmentalists on the planned reboot of the mass immigration program. This is despite mass immigration making it much harder for Australia to meet its emissions targets, in addition to laying further waste to Australia’s natural environment as land and resources are chewed-up to provide the homes, infrastructure and other goods and services required to meet a much larger population.

The impossibility of Australia meeting its emissions target in the fact of mass immigration was laid bare by lecturers at Deakin University in 2019:

In signing the Paris Climate Agreement, the Australian government committed to a global goal of zero net emissions by 2050. Australia’s promised reductions to 2030, on a per person and emissions intensity basis, exceed even the targets set by the United States, Japan, Canada, South Korea and the European Union.

But are we on the right track to achieve our 2030 target of 26-28% below 2005 levels? With one of the highest population growth rates in the developed world, this represents at least a 50% reduction in emissions per person over the next dozen years.

Consider the impact of one sector, the built environment. The construction, operation and maintenance of buildings accounts for almost a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia. As Australia’s population grows, to an estimated 31 million in 2030, even more buildings will be needed.

In 2017, around 18,000 dwelling units were approved for construction every month. Melbourne is predicted to need another 720,000 homes by 2031; Sydney, 664,000 new homes within 20 years. Australia will have 10 million residential units by 2020, compared to 6 million in 1990…

A 2018 University of Adelaide-led study entitled Implications of Australia’s Population Policy for Future Greenhouse Gas Emissions Targets also noted the direct (obvious) link between population size, emissions and environmental degradation:

It is clear from our demographic modelling and the available data on net overseas migrants that Australia’s future population is entirely contingent on its immigration policies… The current demographic state of the Australian population is such that if all net immigration were halted today, the population would stabilize by the mid-2040s and decline only slightly thereafter, achieving nearly the same population size that it is today by mid-century…

Whether Australians choose to limit their future population growth is entirely another matter. The country’s natural systems have already suffered severe degradation of ecosystems…

In this context, any policy that seeks an even larger Australian population would need to be carefully focused on how to achieve this goal sustainably, while mitigating (and, in some situations, reversing) these threatening processes. Given the rising environmental damage globally from a large and growing human population (Bradshaw & Brook 2014), Australia has the rare option to limit this damage by adjusting its immigration policies accordingly…

Based on current population policies, the projected growth in the Australian population will make its already challenging future emissions-reduction goals even more difficult to achieve. In addition to the rising pressure of Australia’s population on its ecosystems, the country’s future greenhouse gas emissions are also partially tied to its immigration policy…

With a 2020 target of 5 per cent reduction in emissions (relative to 2000), a 27 per cent reduction by 2030 (relative to 2005) and potentially an 80 per cent reduction by 2050, Australia has no credible mechanisms in place to achieve these goals… it seems unlikely that Australia will be able to achieve either of these two targets without substantial policy changes across population, energy, agriculture and environmental sectors.

Given that Australia has less than 14 years to meet the 2030 target, and less than 34 years to meet the putative 2050 target, and that a reduction in per capita emissions of 83.5 per cent would still be required even under the extreme scenario of no net migration…

Irrespective of these challenges, any increase in Australia’s population will make these targets even more difficult, such that a business-as-usual projection (scenario 1) would require a fivefold greater reduction in per capita emissions to reach a 2050 target of 80 per cent reduction compared with the zero-immigration scenario and produce ~10 per cent more emissions…

More population growth driven by immigration will hamper Australia’s ability to meet its future climate change mitigation commitments and worsen its already stressed ecosystems, unless a massive technological transformation of Australia’s energy sector is immediately forthcoming.

The most recent federal government State of the Environment report also noted the added destruction of Australia’s natural habitat caused by rapid population growth:

Australia’s population growth and economic activity continue to pose major environmental challenges, according to a comprehensive five-yearly stocktake of the country’s environmental health.

The federal government’s State of the Environment 2016 report (prepared by a group of independent experts, which I chaired), released today, predicts that population growth and economic development will be the main drivers of environmental problems such as land-use change, habitat destruction, invasive species, and climate change…

We continue to lose agricultural lands through urban encroachment…

Coastal waterways are threatened by pollutants, including microplastics and nanoparticles…

Population growth in our major cities, along with Australia’s reliance on private cars, is leading to greater traffic volumes, which increase traffic congestion and delays as well as pollution…

While Australia’s emissions depend on many factors – including our energy use patterns, exports, and how we live – nobody can deny the fact that Australia’s high population growth (immigration) policy will make it next to impossible to meet our targets nor safeguard Australia’s environment.

Population multiplied by units of consumption equals total environment impact. It’s not rocket science. Yet population growth is rarely questioned by environmentalists.

Environmentalists state that climate change is a global problem, therefore, it doesn’t matter where people live. Moreover, they claim that slowing Australia’s population growth would do little to stop global over-population.

While climate change is indeed a global problem, most commentators (myself included) believe that Australia should act locally. The only difference is that, unlike me, many of these same commentators do not believe that Australia should act locally on population growth, even though it too is a global problem. Spot the contradiction?

Ultimately, Australia can only control what happens within its own borders. And growing the population so fast via mass immigration is within our direct policy control and unambiguously negative for Australia’s environment, water security, liveability, housing affordability, as well as meeting our emissions reduction targets.

Environmental groups need to stop the hypocrisy and confront Australia’s population addiction head on, since it is a direct driver of our environmental malaise.

Sadly, their cognitive dissonance and concerns of being labelled ‘racist’ or ‘xenophobic’ means that extreme immigration-driven population growth is rarely questioned. This has given the growth lobby free rein to direct policy makers as they see fit.

Unconventional Economist


      • I’m not sure whether rusty’s comment was meant to be sarcastic, but, immigrants (and their children) definitely consume a lot more environmental resources after moving to Australia, compared to in their home country. As well as CO2, water consumption also needs to be considered.

        • If we cannot have children, we have to import them. Get rid of the bogus neutral CO2 arguments. If we don’t have enough children, our future society is unsustainable.

        • Yes and in the future the vast majority of immigrants will likely be from south Asia so the difference will be even more

      • Forrest GumpMEMBER

        To make the point that population is the environmental elephant in the room, the best way to achieve this is to push back.
        Leith is correct. CO2 is directly proportional to population.

        If we keep rescuing other nations by importing their CO2 emitters, that enables those nations to keep breeding more CO2 emitters.

        Its a sad fact, but its reality. Population is the problem.

        Fewer people means fewer emissions

      • Their food and water consumption is going to be interesting. Let alone the source of their other consumption.

      • Disagree. Australia is an amazing place with incredible potential. Either we do it, or someone else.

    • Display NameMEMBER

      Lot of these migrants come from countries where the per capita CO2 emissions is a faction of the Australian average. Australia has a bad record on extinctions of native fauna, desalination of soils, garbage per capita and land clearing to name a few, all exacerbated by a larger population. Dryest continent on earth, Murray Darling, the largest river system on its knees and water still way over allocated. Water itself been turned into a speculative asset, when it should be treated as a strategic resource. Politicians are incompetent and corrupt. Other than that we are doing gr8.

    • That’s correct.
      And if you think it thru – the easiest and most expedient way for Australia to meet 2050 net zero emissions targets is the mass deportation of the 1.9 million third world migrant guestworkers.

      The social & economic case for a roundup and forcible deportation of 1.95 million third world unskilled adult migrant guestworkers on TR / SCV visas in Australia has been outlined repeatedly in Macrobusiness.

      And yes – they are still here, and in much the same numbers, despite the ‘open borders big Australia’ synchophant media lies, the only real drop in foreign nationals onshore was in the migrant long & repeat stay visitor & visa category. The rest – either breached their visas using the virus & border restrictions to extend their stay & impact in Australian job theft, or they churned onto an exploding protection visa & other categories to stay much the same.
      1.95 million third world unskilled migrant guestworkers (1.6 million as TR & 350,000 of the 680,000 NZ SCV who are of third world origin as mature adult unskilled.

      See the latest visa category breakdown of 2020 & now 2021 posted previously on this forum.

      Meanwhile Australia lost 147,000 jobs and real unemployment went up to 8.7%.

      So first of all – there is zero case for a ‘skills shortage’ or a renewed additional migrant intake. What is actually being peddled by the migrant guestworker lobby is a massive increase on top of what is still here.

      To recap.
      This 1.95 million third world adult unskilled migrant intake dramatically lower our Australian Gdp per Capita. They earn on average 53% of an Australian income.
      They lowered Australian gdp per Capita by some 7%.
      They are not skilled (less than 10,000 out of a total of 1.95m would be rated as skilled)
      They are not an ‘export’ (Eg the foreign students). The foreign students & partners enter Australia in debt to a foreign agent procurer, only the first semester is paid, usually borrowed with falsified funds & to do a nonsense course often with no international recognition. Their only purpose to enter Australia to work & live illegally- all their money is earned here. To then repay that agent procurer debt, to send back remittances & to churn their Coe / Visa to snag a PR & be an anchor in chain migration of more third world unskilled dependents.

      This migrant influx creates huge strains and contention on our public infrastructure (public transport, roads, power, water) that never planned for massive highly concentrated (90% in 2 cities) migrant enclaves.

      They create acute pressure on Australian housing. No migrant / dormitory housing was built for this migrant guestworker influx. As a result Australian now has over 116,000 Australian permanent homeless on the streets & another 340,000 Australians without affordable housing, as over 180,000 or so modest established Australian dwellings in mostly Sydney & Melbourne were allowed to be acquired with dirty money washed by the foreign criminal syndicates.
      Who then evicted the low income $ vulnerable Australian renters in ‘normal dwelling use & occupancy’ to derive billions in undeclared cash income by converting these established modest Australian dwellings to house the 1.9 million third world migrant guestworkers in fetid crowded ‘cash in hand bunk share’.

      (Where exactly do people think the 1.9 million third world unskilled mature adult migrant guestworkers live & how?)… go visit the vast migrant guestworkers slums of Sydney or Melbourne to see for yourself.

      This migrant influx has created mass Australian unemployment.
      We have have 1.9 million Australian unemployed or seeking work – Roy Morgan October 2021), and actual jobs fell by some 167,000 during the virus pandemic.

      So we now have 1 Australian without work for every 1 migrant guestworker allowed in to steal their livelihood.

      We have all seen the foreign criminal run migrant guestworker black economy destroy our employment tenure, our youth apprenticeship & training & and degrade our education industry as it prostituted itself as migrant guestworker visa alibi.

      During the virus pandemic, the large non assimilated migrant guestworkers enclaves in our main cities & illegal workers on falsified identities (the faux security guards, the falsified identities of migrant cleaners & help staff infecting our nursing homes, the outbreaks from migrant guestworkers in fast food, Uber, Deliveroo etc) were the main incubation hubs & transmission vector of the virus to the Australian community. (Repeatedly).
      Many of these non Australian migrants still remain on falsified identities in working illegally in the foreign criminal run black economy now with widespread fraud in their vaccination status to match their falsified identities. And so they remain an ongoing bio security risk to all Australians, being the primary vector from new virus variants offshore in incubation & transmission to Australians locally.

      This third world unskilled non Australian migrant influx has degraded all of our Australian’s standard of living & well being.

      => Now they are an environmental risk.

      2050 – net zero co2 emissions

      2021 Australia Co2 emissions 494.2 million tonnes.

      The October 2021 Australian onshore population is stated at 25,879,073 (ABS – up from 2020) but that only has 1.46 million non Australian migrant guestworkers as the ABS methodology does not include non Australians onshore ‘less than 12 months’ or in visa transition, or on expired visas – so it’s missing a large number of over 550,000 non Australians who are on expired visas, doing visa churn, or now on extension (many were previously long & repeat stay visitors).

      Nor does it include overstayers, DFAT & other visa categories.

      A more realistic figure of actual people onshore in Australia is closer to 26.4 million.
      22 million Australians (citizens)
      4.4 million NON Australians as PR, TR, SCV or on TV, DFAT or other visas.
      16% or 1 in 6 overall, highly concentrated to be 1 in 4 in Sydney or Melbourne as a foreign national migrant guestworker.

      Australian Co2 emissions.
      The latest estimate is an Australian yearly total of 494 million tonnes. Divided by 26.5 million people = 18.6 tonnes of Co2 each (gross / so not including offsets) which roughly reconciles to the country Co2 emissions/ population data.

      2050 implications. Grattan Institute.
      “Australia ‘net-zero’ by 2050 means an average annual Australian reduction of 23 million tonnes of Co2 emissions every year for the next 20 years, net of offsets.”

      Fact check on national per capita co2 emissions annually. Old 2018 data but good as a relative compare & is net of offsets).

      Australia 17 tonnes – ‘net of offsets’.
      China 8 tonnes ‘net of offsets’
      India 1.8 tonnes etc
      Nepal 0.3 tonnes etc

      Note: Australia’s emissions per pop have declined 23.4% since a June 2007 peak. China by comparison has increased to over 11 billion tonnes / 1.25 billion Chinese = 8.9 tonnes Co2 each.

      The average (90% mean) Co2 emission for the third world country of origin of a migrant guestworker is about 3 tonnes of Co2.
      Whereas when in Australia and a much more sophisticated & higher emissions economy/ their emissions are 17 tonnes.

      => So on average, each third world migrant guestworkers allowed into Australia will emit an EXTRA 14 tonnes of Co2.

      Which means when a third world migrant Chinese, Indian, Nepalese, South East Asian, Arab, African etc that is trafficked from their home country to live & work illegally on some pretext visa in Australia…

      … that raises Australia’s emissions and global emissions also.

      Australia emissions reduction.

      By cancelling the visas of the 1.9 million non Australian TR & SCV & deporting them, Australia achieves an immediate Co2 emissions saving of 1.9 million x 17 tonnes annually = 32.3 million tonnes!
      Every year.

      Global Net reduction.
      With migrants deported back to their home country they will also emit much lower Co2 emissions- a third world average 3 tonnes of Co2 – so a GLOBAL NET’ saving of 1.9 million x 14 tonnes each or 26.6 million tonnes of Co2 annually!

      We owe it to the Barrier Reef, to Tuvalu sinking below the waves, to the melting Greenland ice shelf & to the whole world to start rounding up & deporting all of these non Australian foreign migrant guestworkers as soon as possible.

  1. I think the enviro groups (etc) are afraid that having a problem with any sort of immigration at all (even hyper immigration) validates groups like Pauline Hanson (whom they hate), and so throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  2. The Travelling PhantomMEMBER

    Maybe they’ll give them corks to use in the night , that’ll stop the extra population producing more’s more dangerous than co2

  3. It’s terrific to see MB running this critical line, as we close on the pantomime election between Menacing Wallpaper and Anthony Who. The next step is to see, that UN Net Zero itself is not physical science, but a dangerous human conceit. It makes glib assumptions about the humans’ capacity to de-carbonise power and industry, and also assumes the earth suddenly gets a whole lot better at capturing the humans’ “excess” emissions or “residues”. It only “catches” about half at present.

    Over the lifetime of the UN, we have seen the abject policy failure, of human population ballooning from 2b to 8b, smashing the living environment, ramping up resource conflict, destroying democratic possibilities (hi, Egypt). UN Sustainable Development, and now UN Net Zero, are toys to distract us from the 8b. For different reasons, both the “left” and “right” lap it up.

    • Display NameMEMBER

      Net zero is a stake in the ground. It is probably not possible without a toolset to take carbon out of the atmosphere. That is an evolving technology but not economically viable whilst we have a lot of low hanging fruit that are *much* easier to decarbonise using existing technologies. And as many of the nay sayers ignore it won’t be one or two solutions (solar/wind) it will be a dozen or so that will be needed, some still being refined and some yet to be invented.

      Are all the answers known? Absolutely not but like all complex projects you start with a plan and often on the second day you need to change it. This is always the case. You cannot water fall something this complex. The reality is if we embrace this and actively plan for it we will have much cleaner cities.

      • Technology is part of the solution but not the whole solution. The gas mix on the planet is controlled by plants and oceans, they need to be critical focus points if we are to succeed. Grasslands, forests, ecosystem dynamics are far more important than any man made attempt to suck C02 out of the atmosphere.

        Even if we stop producing massive quantities of the stuff tomorrow by using wind and solar, we still need a strategy to mop up the excess. Net zero gets us to today, but it does not repair the existing damage. We need regenerative ideas on all fronts with the goal to get back to pre-industrial levels of pollution.

        Plastic eating microbes, toxin consuming fungi, soil carbon sinks etc.

        • Display NameMEMBER

          Not disagreeing. I have heard a figure of 2 billion population as being ecologically sustainable. Meaning ecosystems do not go backwards and people have a reasonable lifestyle. And a reasonable lifestyle means you are not in a cupboard sized unit in a city of 20M.

  4. The elite are planning to strip certain “luxuries” away from ordinary people.

    Ordinary people will lose access to:

    * backyards
    * car travel
    * plane travel
    * meat
    * home space heating/cooling
    * reliable electricity

    and more.

    • Agree with your list on everything other than “plane travel”. That’s one freedom they want to give – it makes individual countries less meaningful and therefore weaker in power. This favors capital even more of course, and in the long run destroys the “local community” which from what I’ve seen is probably the only vehicle that’s feasible to enact change that you individually can benefit from.

      Smaller communities that live or die by their decisions usually make the right ones. Its the ability to palm the costs/externalities elsewhere that makes it worse. In a small village its almost impossible to do the wrong thing for long, in a global world its too easy to do – people can’t comprehend all that is happening around them; a lot of it corrupt, environmentally damaging, and political.

      • Countries – the thing you need a plane to leave – aren’t “local communities”.

        It wasn’t the plane that “destroyed local communities”, it was the car.

        The society you say you want to get back to is represented today by the Amish.

    • Solar panels and battery banks will help with electricity/power.
      Meat is a choice really, and if I could go vegan I would (I’ve tried, not found it easy) but I’m sure if persistent enough I could.
      Car Travel will be fine if we all use electric+solar+ battery tech.
      Air travel is a big issue I agree.
      Backyards, they can take mine from my cold dead hands.
      Heating / Cooling can be solved via batteries/solar.

      Otherwise I agree, you will own nothing and be happy haha.

  5. Running high immigration has let us cut our high per capita emissions as higher density tends to allow some efficiencies. But more people means more total emissions which is what really counts and as we shift to low emissions per person getting to net zero i think is harder under a larger population with higher general emissions levels.
    So this is another part of the population ponzi- we got short term gains but the end goal is getting harder.

    • Jumping jack flash

      Another simple thing to do is to offshore all our polluting industry so it becomes someone else’s problem. They can replace all of that unnecessary manufacturing with imported retail goods and services, paid for with debt, which has a smaller carbon footprint. They’ve been working on that for a while.

      Pity we have so much farming and mining here. It becomes a bit difficult, but not impossible.

  6. Arthur Schopenhauer

    Water, water, water and, um, water. There’s barely enough for the present population.

    • There will be even less when the Hydrogen industry kicks in, unless they can use sea water .
      Can you crack sea water using electrolysis ?

    • Today’s Murphy (Guardian) poll says number believing immigration levels “are too high” has DROPPED to 37%. Presumably, she means immigration “over past ten years”, which is 200,000 or more? This is what Essential asked in 2018 and 2019. But she doesn’t reveal the exact question, and neither does Essential Poll.

      Birrell (TAPRI) poll says views on migration have HARDENED, with 19% wanting a net of 240K. 22% want it somewhat lower, 20% much lower, and 28% want zero net. They can’t both be right. Perhaps MacroBusiness could look at?

  7. SupperannuationMEMBER

    I put this to same question in an email to local Labor candidate. It was not addressed in her response but they are going to take action and have a plan to take action.

  8. We’ll meet net zero the same way we always manage things in the lucky country, with luck 😜

  9. CO2 credits will be part of the social credit score which will be introduced shortly after vaccine passports are normalised.

    • Jumping jack flash

      Fortunately for me my parents didnt have electricity connected to our house until1995 when i was 19 (and left home). The house had 3 ceiling lights and 2 power points. Until that time we used candles for light and wood for cooking. Based on that Ive already accrued a lifetime of carbon credits. I wonder how i can get those recognised?