Key federal government data charting the progress of Australia’s climate action – released belatedly by the Coalition – confirms total emissions have been rising steadily over the past three years, and are likely to increase again, thanks largely to fossil fuel mining.
Highlighting “concerning upward trends” in emissions from coal and gas extraction, an analysis of the new data by The Australia Institute belies the repeated claims of Angus Taylor that Australia is meeting its emissions targets and honouring its obligations to act on climate.
Rather, emissions have increased significantly across almost all energy-related sources – except for electricity generation – with emissions from transport up by 23 per cent, from stationary energy 30 per cent, and fugitive energy by “an astonishing” 55 per cent.
Put plainly, this means that based on the government’s own official figures, Australia’s total emissions increased by 1 per cent between 2016-17 and 2017-18, and are likely to increase by a further 0.3 per cent between 2017-18 and 2018-19.
And the picture might be even worse if it weren’t for the awful irony that emissions have been “significantly impacted” by a reduction in cattle and sheep numbers caused by the current drought in eastern Australia (and the loss of cattle in the north-west Queensland floods).
Were this a “normal season,” the report notes, emissions could well be increasing again by as much as a full 1 per cent.
“The new Minister for Emissions Reductions Angus Taylor has begun his term by delivering two key reports that confirm Australia’s rising emissions,” says the report’s author, Dr Hugh Saddler.
“What the latest National Energy Emissions Audit confirms is that Australia’s emissions are rising, not falling. These findings fly completely in the face of Minister Taylor’s claims to the contrary.
Saddler, says the sharp increases in stationary and fugitive emissions are largely explained by the boom in the extraction of both conventional natural gas and coal seam gas, and the processing of this gas to LNG for export.
And while the government has tried to “rationalise this away” by claiming that Australia’s LNG exports will serve to displace developing countries’ coal consumption, and thus reduce emissions that way, its actions elsewhere tell a different story.
“At the same time … the government is actively supporting growth in mining coal for export in Queensland, where annual fugitive emissions from coal mining have increased by around 4 million tonnes CO2-e, equal to about 50 per cent, over the past ten years.
Saddler is equally scathing about the delayed release of these “two important documents” – the National Inventory Report 2017 and December 2018 National Greenhouse Gas Inventory Quarterly Update – which missed both international and domestic deadlines.
The NIR, required for submission to the UNFCCC by Australia by 15 April, was eventually published on the UN website on May 24, and then on the Environment Department’s website in the second week of June.
The December Quarterly Update, meanwhile, should have been released on or before May 31, a Friday, but was not released until the following Thursday, June 6, 2019.
“The circumstances of both releases demonstrate just how contemptuous the Australian government is of its obligations to Australian citizens, to the international community, to future generations, and to the future of the planet,” Saddler says in the report.
Indeed, just last week, this contempt was in full flight, when Australia’s “ambassador for the environment,” Peter Sucking, responded to UN questions about rising emissions with a single slide presentation and dodgy accounting.
As TAI’s Richie Merzian explained on Sky News in March, the only reason Australia has been able to meet its Kyoto targets, and then likely beat them in 2020, is “really because Australia gamed the system.”
“Australia negotiated …to get rules built into the Kyoto Protocol that would allow it to meet that target very easily and then get back a lot of credit that it could then use going forward,” he said.
“Unfortunately, that means that we won’t actually be meeting our Paris Agreement targets by reducing emissions, we will be relying on these dodgy credits that we got through accounting tricks from ten years ago.”