When Australia – long considered a climate policy laggard – heads to the polls on 21 May, the outcome could be significant for the planet’s future.

Still reliant on coal for most of its electricity, it is one of the dirtiest countries per capita – making up just over 1% of global emissions, but only 0.3% of the world’s population.

It’s a massive global supplier of fossil fuels, and once that is factored in, it accounts for 3.6% of the world’s emissions.

But it’s also one of the nations most at risk from climate change.

In recent years, Australia has suffered severe drought, historic wildfires, successive years of record-breaking floods, and six mass bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef.

And it’s racing towards a future full of similar disasters, the latest UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warns.

The current government has angered allies with its short-term emissions reductions target – which is half what the IPCC says is needed if the world has any chance of limiting warming to 1.5C.

But Australia is still wedded to fossil fuels and climate policy has famously played a role in toppling three prime ministers in a decade.

Though most voters want tougher climate action, some coal towns lie in swing constituencies that are key to winning elections.