Australia’s biggest polluters increase emissions on Coalition watch

Print Friendly

New government data has confirmed what has been widely suspected – the nation’s top polluters are actually increasing emissions, and will likely continue to do so despite Australia’s recent pledge to join the ambitious climate agreement sealed in Paris.

The National Greenhouse and Energy Report released late on Friday reveals the nation’s top 10 polluters – and AGL again takes top spot, this time reinforcing its position with the multi-billion dollar purchase of large coal fired generators in NSW.

The data, and an analysis from the Australian Conservation Foundation, confirm that in the same year that Australia signed up to the historic Paris climate deal – an agreement to actively pursue efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels – the nation’s carbon pollution levels increased, as the country’s electricity generation sector became even more reliant on coal power.

The ACF report finds that despite the federal government’s assurances that its climate policies are working, the amount of climate pollution being emitted is rising – the vast majority of which comes from burning black and brown coal to generate electricity.

“Energy companies in the 10 biggest climate polluters list are responsible for the equivalent of 22 per cent of Australia’s climate pollution,” says the report, and nearly all through scope 1 emissions (scope 1 emissions are those that result directly from an activity at a facility (or machine) owned by a company. Scope 2 emissions come from the consumption of electricity produced at another facility).

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 10.17.22 AM

Using the latest National Greenhouse & Energy Reporting Scheme data, the report shows that all but two of these 10 companies polluted more in the last year than in the previous one; a trend led by AGL Energy which, as you can see the in table and chart below, effectively doubled its emissions (yoy) in 2014-15, despite its well publicised efforts at a green energy makeover.

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 10.34.03 AM

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 11.26.53 AM

The report attributes AGL’s “dramatic” increase in emissions in 2015 – nearly double that of number two on the list, Energy Australia – to its acquisition of Macquarie Generation’s Bayswater and Liddell power stations in that year.

Origin Energy, meanwhile, jumped three spots to number five as a result of increased production at its Eraring coal-fired power station, which it bought from the NSW government in 2015, and which increased production by 43 per cent over 2014-15, pushing up its emissions by four million tonnes.

“If you listen to the federal government you’d be forgiven for thinking Australia’s pollution levels were decreasing, when in fact Australia’s pollution increased by 1.3 per cent in 2014-15 – that’s 7,200,000 additional tonnes of planet warming pollution pumped into our skies in just one year,” said ACF President Geoff Cousins in a statement on Monday.

And this is happening, cousins notes in the report’s introduction, due to the climate policy vacuum created when former PM Tony Abbott made the axing of Australia’s world-leading carbon price his first order of business, back in 2013.

“In axing the carbon price, the government removed the one policy Australia had to reduce climate pollution from the energy sector, leaving electricity generators – and the rest of us – largely reliant on coal for our power,” Cousins writes.

“Australia’s energy sector is crying out for federal government leadership to help the industry make the transition to a zero-pollution future.

Instead, he adds, “(Coalition) policies encourage them to keep doing what they’ve been doing for decades.

“The big polluters identified in this report own some of the world’s dirtiest coal-fired power stations,” says Cousins – and you can see a list of those below. “Every day these dirty power stations are spewing out pollution. Every day they are making climate change worse,” he says.

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 10.33.34 AM

“While the …Emissions Reduction Fund gives taxpayers’ money to Wesfarmers, the owner of Coles, Kmart and Bunnings, to install efficient lighting, the big polluters continue to pollute freely.

“As a result, Australia’s emissions intensity from generating power is higher than China’s and twice the emissions intensity of other OECD countries.”

Cousins closes his comments by urging the federal government to commit to a phased closure of Australia’s coal-fired power stations, starting with the dirtiest and least efficient stations – as you can see in the chart above, this would be the Victorian brown coal plant Hazelwood owned by GDF Suez (Engie), which also owns Loy Yang A and B.

“It’s time for Australia to get out of last century’s energy sources and leap into a brighter future powered by clean energy,” he says.


RenewEconomy Free Daily Newsletter

Share this:

  • Keith

    GDF-Suez (renamed as Engie) is interesting and may well be where the Government’s attempt to keep coal alive will founder. Engie have just released their 2015 results, which are extraordinary in terms of goals for the next 3 years. In particular, it is hard to reconcile a goal to decarbonise its business with ownership of the Victorian brown coal facilities.

    Here is a quote from the annual report :

    “In order to speed-up the implementation of its strategy decided two years ago, to adapt its portfolio of activities to its long term vision and to grasp new development opportunities, the Group decides to focus its new developments on:

     low CO2 activities which will represent more than 90% of Group’s EBITDA by 2018”

    Engie is exiting coal all around the world. Watch this space.

    See also

    • Chris Fraser

      But if the restoration of the Hazelwood mine is a liability, would there be anyone keen to pay money to take it on ?

      • Keith

        Hi Chris,
        Perhaps they will just close them down and take the hit on clean up?

        • DogzOwn

          Surely locked into clean up or risk losing $660M instalments for Desal Wonthaggi?

      • Andrew Thaler

        the Victorian govt (read: people) is likely to get saddled with it by clever manoeuvring..whether they want it or not. it will probably ‘accidentally’ fill up from one flood soon…

        • Chris Fraser

          Ah yes they learned about that one at Yallourn …

    • trackdaze

      In a sense the 90% ebitda claim may hold with it operating particularly if its running at a loss.

  • SM

    So we’ve learnt today that emissions at the big emitters are rising, Direct Action is failing to deliver any no-regrets/v. low cost emission reductions AND reducing rates of land clearing which we’ve relied on for 20 years to beat our targets are growing again and we’ve probably been understating them anyway.

    Where is Greg Hunt when you need some soothing facile explanation ?

  • Thucydides

    ‘Australian Conservative Foundation’ – LOL. Have you thought of crowd sourcing proof readers?

    • Sophie Vorrath

      Thanks for the heads up. …I think we already do!

      • Thucydides

        I’m sure there would be devoted readers happy to cast an eye *before* publication 🙂

  • Brian Tehan

    I just find it gobsmacking that we have to use taxpayer funds to persuade big companies to change to, eg, LED light bulbs which provide a complete return on investment in less than 12 months and continuing savings after that. They use a lot less electricity and last, maybe 8 times longer (= big savings in replacement labour). In Europe, an equivalent company would have done this changeover years ago. Then again, if you’re getting electricity for 10c per kwh (as many companies do – subsidised by us mug punters), the business case is there but, maybe not as compelling to those with absolutely no long term view. Every business leader goes on about productivity improvements but they mean cutting peoples wages, not investing in simple technological improvements. I could go on….
    Maybe if we had a carbon tax….

    • Chris Fraser

      … and more generally, a ‘price on carbon emissions’. If we had one, the business case would definitely be present. Now we know the incumbency was even prepared to make Tony Abbott a Prime Minister for two years just to get rid of it.

    • Dispassionate

      How is it different to those who pay for the subsidisation of solar PV owners?

      • trackdaze

        Reasonable question. Maybe the distinction is Ones structural change that has displaced the need for multiple fossil fuel generators that would have required significant subsidies.

        And the other is a light bulb that supports the status que in terms of undesirable electricity generation with half the subsidy fed into executive bonuses.

        • Dispassionate

          Good point, so do either deserve a subsidy?

          • trackdaze

            From every million dollars in solar adds 14 new jobs. Coal? 5.

          • Dispassionate

            I take the fact on face value but that doesn’t answer the question of do either deserve a subsidy?

          • Chris B

            The answer economists would give is “no”, but that’s not how we do things here. If CO2, NOx and SO2 were actually priced the market would figure out the most efficient way to reduce emissions of each. Not going to happen though, bureaucrats know best.

            Outside of small business, and despite the empty rhetoric of talking heads, Australia is actually a command economy. It’s why innovators of all types can so often be seen throwing up their hands and screaming while making a beeline to the airport.

  • phred01

    Fossil fuels are going on the way of the dinosaurs. We not need to promote the burning of Dinosaurs poop. The Turnbull govn’t needs to c this speech as the writing is clearly on the wall.

  • trackdaze

    164million tonnes @ $23 a tonne works out to be about $3.7b

    Now lets presume the tax reduced emmisions by10 % that would still buy allot of medicine, schools right?

    • Pete


      • JeffJL

        $230/tonne? LOL

      • trackdaze

        Thanks for that. Edited to correct.

  • JeffJL

    It won’t be long before they decide that this information will be “On Water Matters”.