The Department of Environment and Energy has finally released the latest quarterly update of national greenhouse gas accounts, showing yet another increase, but not before energy and emissions reduction minister Angus Taylor provided the report to The Australian, before the public.
Facing criticism for his failure to release the updated figures, which are anticipated to show continued increases in Australia’s emissions, and on the same day as Australian Federal Police raided ABC offices over the publication of unauthorised documents, Taylor opted to release the delayed official data through News Limited papers, allowing an opportunity to spin the figures ahead of their release.
The move was slammed by shadow minister for climate change and energy Mark Butler.
“Not only did he not release the emissions data by the deadline set by the Senate last Friday, today’s release shows once again why the Liberals will try every trick in the book to avoid scrutiny of their record on tackling climate change.” Butler said.
“As expected, under the Liberals carbon emissions continue to rise, once again exposing the Government’s lie that Australia is “on track” to meet even the Liberals weak emission reduction targets.”
The Greens have also criticised the release of data to The Australian before the public, following the Greens raising the potential of finding the energy minister in contempt of Parliament when the deadline was missed.
“The Minister has continued with his contempt of the Parliament, seemingly dropping the pollution figures to the Murdoch media before making them public,” Bandt said.
“This whole process has been outrageous and we will pursue the government and the Department to get answers. There needs to be consequences for breaching the Senate’s orders.”
“We wouldn’t accept the government selectively dropping the regular unemployment figures to its favourite media outlet. This pollution data needs to be released promptly, regularly and transparently.”
The figures are bad for the Government, as they have shown continued increases in Australia’s emissions, including a significant jump in the quarter ending December 2018, contradicting ongoing assertions from the Government that emissions have been falling.
Latest emissions figures show emissions rising by 0.7% in the 2018 year. Emissions reductions in the electricity and agricultural sectors have been more than offset by increases in emissions across the rest of the economy, particularly in stationary energy use, transport and fugitive emissions.
Taylor used the Australian to provide his spin on this result, claiming that the use of exported gas from Australia had offset the use of more pollutive fuels in other countries, and claiming that Australia should be credited for this.
Despite rising emissions, Taylor has continued to assert that the Government is on track to meet its Paris target of reducing emissions by 26% by 2030, despite experts saying that this is not in fact the case.
Butler also rejected Taylor’s contention that the Government was on track to meet its targets.
“According to the Government’s own projections, the Liberals aren’t going to meet the 2020 Kyoto target of a 5 per cent emissions cut, or their inadequate Paris target. They have no plan to tackle climate change and their own data shows emissions will keep rising all the way to 2030.” Butler said.
Fugitive greenhouse gas emissions have surged in recent years as a result of growing natural gas production, with fugitive emissions, caused by methane gas leaking during the extraction, transport and processing.
Taylor appears to be lobbying for Australia to receive recognition for claimed emissions reductions through the export of gas, despite gas being a significant contributor to global emissions.
“Sadly, global carbon accounting doesn’t give us credit for that”. Taylor told the Australian.
“The truth is when we export our gas, aluminium and coal, typically our products have a lower carbon intensity than the substitutes. The emissions-intensive trade sector is good for Australia and good for global emissions.”
The Government has enthusiastically supported the growth in Australia’s natural gas exports, while at the same time claiming that more gas exploration is needed due to a claimed shortage of gas in the domestic gas market.
Australia’s gas market has faced competing challenges; trying to maintain an affordable supply of energy for domestic consumers, while maximising the value of gas exported to the global market. As a result, domestic users have had to fight overseas customers for the supply of Australian gas.
Taylor missed the 31 May deadline for the release of the update, which has been mandated by a Senate order with ‘continuing effect’, requiring the Government to release the quarterly updates within five months following the end of each quarter.
On the subject of the police raids on media, the Australian Conservation Foundation said they could have a “chilling” effect on free and fearless press and potential whistleblowers.
It pointed to recent media investigations that exposed practices like mining companies accessing Australia’s emissions reduction fund to burn more fossil fuels and attempts by dirty coal plants to use the funds to upgrade their equipment.
“Without a completely free media, it is so much harder to expose or scrutinise bad environmental decision-making that will damage the places and wildlife Australians love,” the ACF said.