The federal environment department has begun the removal of years of historical greenhouse gas emissions data and projections from its website, raising fears the data may be lost from public access.
Responsibility for maintaining and publishing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions data was transferred to the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources following a portfolio reshuffle late last year.
The department of industry is expected to become the new host of this data, but the data is not yet available on the department’s website.
The website of the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment previously held more than a decades worth of historical emissions data and government projections of future emissions, but these datasets have now been removed from the department’s website.
Information relating to several climate change and sustainability initiatives have also been removed from the environment department’s website, including the Climate Solutions Fund and the National Electric Vehicle Strategy.
A message on the environment department’s website warned that its content was under review and that responsibility for some information would be transferred to the department of industry.
“Under the Administrative Arrangements Order made on 5 December 2019 with effect from 1 February 2020 climate change adaptation strategy and climate science activities fall under the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. Domestic climate policy and emissions reduction responsibilities transferred to the new Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.”
After some digging, RenewEconomy discovered that some data is available through an apparent archive of the website, operating on a subdomain of the Department of Industry’s website, but there are no clear instructions on either department’s website on how to access this information or whether the information is up to date.
However, while the greenhouse gas emissions data has been removed from the department of environment’s website, it has yet to be made available through the department of industry’s website.
Just one data set is available directly via the industry department, the most recent quarterly emissions update published in February, but no historical data or projections are currently available.
Government websites are also archived through the National Library of Australia’s Trove service, which saves and stores snap shots of government website at various points in time. Data released up until November last year remains available via the Trove website archive.
In the past, the department of environment has come under criticism for delays in the release of updated greenhouse gas emissions data, particularly when data showed emissions increasing. These delays were often the result of subsequent environment and energy ministers opting to sit on contentious data rather than release the data publicly.
Federal Greens senators successfully moved a motion of “continuing effect” that now requires federal energy and emissions reduction minister Angus Taylor to publish updated quarterly greenhouse gas emissions data within five months of the end of each quarter.
It has also become an unfortunate standard practise that updates to Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions projects, which are published annually, are released by the Coalition government in the days leading up to Christmas, often on Christmas-eve itself, preventing full scrutiny of the projections.
Both departments have been contacted for clarification.
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