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Australia’s greenhouse emissions surging to record high

Giles Parkinson

Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are posed to surge to a record high after 2020, and may not reach a peak before 2030 – despite the government’s claim it has been reducing emissions and its support for the Paris climate deal.

A new analysis from industry analyst Reputex – a division of global ratings agency Standard & Poor’s – confirms what we already know: despite the Coalition’s rhetoric, emissions in Australia actually rose 1.3 per cent in 2014/15, for the first time since the Coalition was last in power a decade earlier.

reputex-aust-emissions

But the Reputex survey also notes that Australia’s emissions growth is now among the highest in the world, with the government’s own forecast showing emissions will grow 6 per cent to 2020, despite its ‘Direct Action’ plan and the billions spent in the Emissions Reduction Fund.

Ironically, the emissions growth would have been faster, but for the fact that Australia’s economic growth has been downgraded sharply from the optimistic assumptions of successive Labor and Coalition governments.

‘There is a substantial disconnect between our national abatement task and the emissions reality,’ said Hugh Grossman, executive director of RepuTex.

The situation is made worse by the revelation that the Coalition government is not providing any more funds to Direct Action, meaning that the country will fall into a ‘policy void’ once the latest auctions are completed this year.

Grossman said that from the end of this year, there would be no mechanism to purchase emissions reductions, or hold companies accountable for emissions growth. ‘This will leave the Australian market with no policy to curb emissions growth,’ he said.

Indeed, Grossman said it was difficult for the public to see what, if anything, had changed since Malcolm Turnbull took over as leader of the Coalition and as prime minister from Tony Abbott in early September.

reputex-emissions-comparison

The report was seized upon by the Labor Party, who pointed to repeated claims by Turnbull and his environment minister Greg Hunt that Australia was in fact reducing its emissions.

That is clearly not the case. Yet Australia declared its support for the Paris climate agreement reached in mid-December, which aims to contain global temperature rises to ‘well below 2°C’, and possible 1.5°C. This will require significant cuts in emissions in coming decades, and a limited carbon budget.

Another major new report released on Monday slammed Australia for lacking any high-level policy vision in its approach to climate change.

The study from the Grantham Institute in the UK looks at all countries’ pledges at the Paris climate summit and the ‘credibility’ of the respective governments in actually delivering on those pledges.

Australia, despite having public support, excellent institutions, and good public process, rates poorly because of its policy switches and lack of robust legislation.

grantham-australia

This graph to the right illustrates how. Australia gets a zero because of its policy back-flips – the result of partisan politics – and a poor 1.5 on current policies.

Notably, the Grantham report says Australia was ‘not supportive’ of a high level vision for climate policies. Only Australia and Canada performed at the bottom rung because of their policy flip-flops – the result of intervention by their respective climate-skeptic leaders, Tony Abbott and Stephen Harper respectively.

This graph below shows just how low Australia rates in terms of credibility for climate policy and legislation.

grantham-rating

The Coalition government, however, is still arguing that coal is good for humanity and essential to relive energy poverty.

Just weeks after the conclusion of the Paris climate deal, the official data was quietly released by the Coalition through the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory (NGGI), over the Christmas holidays.

They show an increase in emissions for four straight quarters, driven by a 33 per cent jump in emissions from land clearing, and an increase in brown-coal generation, and liquefied natural gas (LNG) production.

The brown coal generation is directly attributable, say other industry analysts such as Pitt & Sherry and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, to the repeal of the carbon price, and the halt to construction in large-scale renewables caused by Coalition policies.

Reputex says the increase in fiscal year emissions in the past year is the first since 2005-06, when Australian emissions reached their historic peak.

Australia is now one of five developed economies expected to grow its emissions to 2020, behind only Finland, Sweden and Estonia.

Meanwhile, the US is forecast to cut emissions by 17 per cent on 2000 levels by 2020 under ‘current policy’ settings, while the European Union (18 per cent), Russia (31 per cent) and the United Kingdom (37 per cent) have all begun to reduce their emissions.

Australia also has a target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 5 per cent on 2000 levels by 2020, but will have to use an accounting credit – the surplus from its Kyoto Protocol commitment, where it was allowed to increase emissions significantly – to meet that target.

‘Meeting Australia’s abatement task is largely just a victory in accounting terms,’ Grossman said. ‘We have met our target, but we used a credit to get there, so it’s not a sign of any progress to reduce emissions.’

Grossman says Australia’s current policies are likely to result in emissions growing to historic levels, and beyond, with no peak expected prior to 2030.

‘As major new LNG and Coal Mining facilities begin to ramp up, even under lower commodity prices, we will see their demand for electricity grow, which will increase emissions from coal-fired power generation.

‘We project this pathway will continue to grow under current policy, with no peak in emissions within sight for the Australian market prior to 2030’ he said.

The Coalition government has announced a review of its Direct Action Plan policy in June 2017, reporting by November 2017. However any new policy is unlikely to take effect until 2018-19, in around three years’ time, and there is no change in rhetoric, or policy, in the lead up to the election expected this year.

Grossman said Australia’s growing emissions may become a liability for the government as it enters an election year and faces increased international scrutiny, putting pressure on the government to explain its policy, and how it can reach its Paris pledge of a 26-28 per cent cut in emissions by 2030.

‘While the government won’t jump the gun on its 2017 policy review, without a new statement of intent it will be hard for the electorate to distinguish between the new PM’s ambition and the Abbott-era of climate policy,’ Grossman said.

This article was first published in RenewEconomy.


8 responses to “Australia’s greenhouse emissions surging to record high”

  1. Macha says:

    Cheap and efficient energy supply is critical fot the health and welfare of any country. CO2 is a harmless, colourless and odourless gas essential for plant growth and therefore humanity survival. It has virtually no impact on temperature despite what mainstream media and alarmists have claimed. Satellites and balloons have shown no unnatural temperature rise for almost twenty years now and yet about half of all manmade CO2 emissions have occurred in this time. These IPCC models are wrong.

    • Trev says:

      You seem a little bit confused there Macha. When you say alarmists, try substituting scientists. When you say mainstream media substitute all major scientific agencies around the world. When you say no unnatural temperature rises shown by balloons and satellites try substituting all measurement methods have shown no pause in warming with 10 of the warmest years on record occuring in the last 15 years, with the last 3 years being the warmest on record. When you say these IPCC models are wrong try saying the current increase in temperatures is well within the bounds of the IPCC models.
      Try to avoid confirmation bias, stay away from those websites that just reinforce your fallacious beliefs, that’s what they are there for, to keep people like you confused and spouting incorrect information. Look for information from the major scientific agencies such as the CSIRO, BOM, NOAA etc etc

  2. James says:

    and exactly what is Australia’s contribution to the world wide production of CO2

    • Tweed says:

      About 1%. Remember we have Zero nuclear power. EU 35%, France 75%, USA 29%. If we did want to cut CO2 then just put a nuclear power station outside each capital city. France has 53 of them. In Australia. Coal is a no brainer. It is cheap abundant convenient locations ….. And is a totally Australian product. No imports!!

  3. Tweed says:

    Melbourne has been voted the worlds Most Liveable City twice. It’s trams, dining culture, extraordinary sporting venues in the sports precinct are noted benefits of living in Melbourne. Supported by electricity from the abundant Brown Coal resource in the La Trobe Valley make it all possible. Manufacturing in Melbourne has benefited from cheap abundant electricity supply. “Renewables” just cannot replace base load electricity. We know solar panels produce zero energy 16 hours a day … Every day. Windmills produce zero power sometimes for days on end. Power walls are nice in theory but again can only be charged by solar maximum of 8 hours a day. Ever thought if the logistic of replacing a B Double truck travelling daily between Melbourne and Sydney …. With batteries? Or lighting up MCG or Australia Stadium with windmills? Or catching a tram in Melbourne powered by solar panels?
    The facts remain, to move away from fossil fuels you need a viable alternative. At this point Nuclear or Coal are the only base load alternatives.
    Ever seen a photo of a solar farm at night……

    • Magnon says:

      You have to evaporate 600 kg of water in order to burn 400 kg dry weight of brown coal (i..e. the coal has a 60% moisture content).

      Water vapour is a potent greenhouse gas, but also has energy which can be harnessed in a vortex engine. See http://www.vortexengineer.com

      At Loy Yang the approximate annual vaporisation for cooling tower emissions is 34 Megatonne and 18 Megatonne in combustion of the fuel => 52 Megatonne total, (containing the equivalent of 5.7 GWth).

      We just waste it.

      Then we build a desalination plant to produce 200 Megatonne of drinking water requiring a power of around 90 MWe. That will use the output from a wind farm. Assuming a duty cycle of 30%, that requires an installed capacity of 300 MWe. That would cost in the region of $1 billion.

      Something’s wrong.

      • Magnon says:

        I neglected to say that the cost of the desalination plant is reported as $5.7 billion. I assume that this does not include the cost of the wind farm…

        Also, an extract from Wikipedia is of some interest:

        “On 12 December 2009 The Age newspaper published details of considerable areas of land made cheaply available to the plant’s developers without the value of such land being included in the project’s official costs.”

        “The average water bill for residents living in Melbourne is estimated to rise by around 64% over the next 5 years. Water price plans released by the Essential Services Commission illustrate that metropolitan water providers will charge between 87 per cent and 96 per cent more for water. Water Minister Tim Holding, has stated that; “Melbourne residents need to help pay for major water infrastructure projects, such as the desalination plant and the Sugarloaf (North South) pipeline.” “

  4. Angie says:

    Australia’s transport emissions are increasing, especially from passenger cars which make up 10% of australia’s co2 emissions.. From 2012 to 2014, overall transport emissions increased from 91 to 92 mil tonnes of co2 equivalent..
    And I don’t think that includes the mining and production of oil, petrol and roads either, which comes under ‘industry’ or ‘fugitive’ emissions. another huge contributor of co2 emissions.
    We know that renewable energy and public transport and rail transport would be far more efficient, but the government isn’t interested because they get millions in political donations from the oil, gas, mining, road and construction companies.

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