The federal government’s latest tally of Australia’s carbon emissions reveals yet another increase in the nation’s contribution to climate changing greenhouse gases, even without the contributions of Victoria’s now-closed Hazelwood coal plant.
The quarterly report, produced by the Department of Environment and Energy, shows a 0.8 increase in national emissions levels in the December 2017 – March 2018 quarter, up from the previous quarter.
Annual emissions for the year to December 2017, meanwhile, were estimated to be 533.7 Mt CO2-e – a 1.5 per cent increase when compared with the previous year.
This should not be surprising. The current government’s numerous critics point out that the country has no emissions reduction mechanisms to reach its modest target of a 26-28 per cent cut in emissions from 2005 levels by 2030.
The only sector that does have a mechanism – the electricity sector with the renewable energy target that the Coalition government tried to kill – is the only sector that has shown a reduction, a 3.1 per cent fall over the year due mainly to the closure of Hazelwood, and lower demand, possibly due to more efficient appliances and more rooftop solar.
The report, despite being emblazoned with the names of the government department and the Australian government itself, is prefaced with the following surprising disclaimer:
“The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Australian Government or the Minister for the Environment and Energy”.
The main culprit behind the biggest single increase in emissions – the more than 10 per cent jump in fugitive emissions from the energy sector – has been linked to the Turnbull government’s great energy transition hope: gas.
As the table below shows, every single major industry sector – except for electricity and Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry – saw a rise in emissions across 2017.
The key offenders were stationary energy (excluding electricity), with a 3.8 per cent uptick in emissions; transport (3.4%), and; fugitive emissions from energy (10.5%).
“Over the year to December 2017, there were increases in emissions from the stationary energy (excluding electricity), transport, fugitive emissions, industrial processes and product use, waste and agriculture sectors,” the report says.
“Fugitive emissions from the production, processing, transport, storage, transmission and distribution of fossil fuels, such as coal, crude oil and natural gas, increased by 10.5 per cent over the year to December 2017, driven by a 17.6 per cent increase in natural gas production,” it says.
“These increases were partially offset by a decline in emissions from the electricity sector … a 3.1 per cent decrease … that reflected weakening demand in the National Electricity Market and a reduction in brown coal generation.
“Stationary energy use, which includes emissions from direct combustion of fuels, predominantly in manufacturing, mining, residential and commercial sectors, increased by 3.8 per cent,” the report continued.
“This was largely caused by a 41.4 per cent increase in LNG production in 2017 with a further 18.1 per cent increase forecasted for 2018.”
The Australian Conservation Foundation said it was more evidence that the Coalition had made no porgies on emissions since coming to government in September 2013.
Rather, says the ACF – and as the table below, taken from the report, shows – there has been a distinct upward trend.
“Since the federal Government repealed a price on pollution in June 2014 emissions have risen 3.6 per cent,” the ACF says.
“It is truly embarrassing that a wealthy and developed country like Australia would have rising climate pollution,” said ACF climate program manager, Gavan McFadzean in comments on Monday.
“This is a failure of the Turnbull Government’s leadership on climate change policy.
“This data confirms pollution is rising from transport, industry and gas production because there is no plan from Canberra to replace burning polluting coal, oil and gas with clean energy.
“The Turnbull Government has stalled in its attempts to introduce pollution standards for vehicles equivalent to those in the United States and Canada. And its caps on industrial climate pollution are full of holes.
“We need a comprehensive national climate change plan that will rapidly cut pollution across our society and ensures Australia plays its fair role in halting global warming and ensuring we maintain our safe climate,” McFadzean said.
Sophie is editor of OneStepOffTheGrid.com.au and deputy editor of its sister site, RenewEconomy.com.au. Sophie has been writing about clean energy for more than a decade.