Emissions for the year to September 2018 up 0.9% as Morrison government attempts a policy pivot on climate
— Emissions in Australia are continuing to rise, with the latest increases driven predominantly by an increase in liquefied natural gas production in Western Australia.
Emissions for the year to September 2018 went up 0.9% on the previous year, according to the latest inventory, primarily due to a 19.7% increase in LNG exports, but there were also increases in stationary energy, transport, fugitives, industrial processes and waste sectors.
The increased pollution from stationary energy reflects production growth in the mining sector, in steel and aluminium. The increase in LNG production has driven a 7.3% increase in fugitive emissions over the year to September 2018.
Transport emissions also increased 2% over the year to September, with an 8.4% increase in diesel consumption, reflecting increased diesel passenger vehicle sales and more freight activity.
But emissions in Australia’s electricity sector continued to fall, courtesy of a 12.3% reduction in brown coal supply, and a 14.2% increase in generation from renewable sources.
The latest data shows that emissions in Australia’s electricity sector peaked in 2009, and have decreased almost 15% from that time.
The energy mix is also changing. Since 2009, coal generation has decreased from 83% of total generation to 75%, while gas has decreased from 9% to 8% and renewable generation, mostly wind and hydro, has increased from 8% to 17% of total generation.
Emissions from agriculture also declined over the 12 months, according to the figures – a trend driven by a decreasing beef cattle population, decreases in emissions from agricultural soils and field burning of agricultural residues.
There was also a reduction in fertiliser use in the 2017-18 cropping year, which followed more favourable growing conditions in the previous year. Parts of the country are in the grip of a prolonged drought.
Confirmation that emissions are continuing to rise comes in the week where the Morrison government is attempting to execute a policy pivot on climate change to try to shore up its small “l” liberal heartland ahead of the coming election.
Liberals are under pressure from a number of independent candidates, many of whom are campaigning against the government because of its record of frustrating climate policy action.
Scott Morrison has this week revived Tony Abbott’s emissions reduction fund, rebadged it and given it funding of $2bn over 10 years – although environmental groups and a range of climate experts say that fund has absolutely no prospect of delivering the heavy lifting on emissions reduction required to see Australia meet its Paris target.
As part of efforts to appeal to disaffected voters who now consider climate change a vote changing issue, Morrison has also pledged the government’s support for large renewable energy projects.
The government has approved the Snowy 2.0 expansion, kicked in $56m for the Marinus link, and has flagged further taxpayer underwriting of the “battery of the nation” proposal.
The government has also identified specified various components of an abatement plan which it says is consistent with Australia meeting the 2030 target.
To meet the target, the government intends to count a 367 megatonne abatement from carry-over credits, which is not practical emissions reduction but an accounting system that allows countries to count carbon credits from exceeding their targets under the soon-to-be-obsolete Kyoto protocol periods against their Paris commitment for 2030.
It is also factoring in emissions reduction from the Snowy 2.0 expansion; energy efficiency measures; an electric vehicle strategy for which there are no details; the rebadged climate solutions fund; additional hydro projects and just under 100Mt of abatement from unspecified “technology solutions” and “other sources of abatement” such as projects under development but not yet contracted.
Labor attacked the government after the release of the emissions data on Thursday. The shadow climate change minister, Mark Butler, said carbon pollution levels had been rising since the election of Tony Abbott as prime minister, “and emissions will continue to rise all the way to 2030”.
Butler said the rebadged emissions reduction fund would not counter the trend of rising emissions. “After five years and $2.25bn spent, Tony Abbott’s ineffective emissions reduction fund only saw pollution rise”.
The Greens climate spokesman, Adam Bandt, said the data confirmed “no matter how much money Scott Morrison throws into dodgy emissions funds, pollution will keep going up until polluters are once more forced to pay for their emissions through a carbon price”.
“This latest data shows that while current investment in renewables has had some impact, it’s not enough to counteract increases in emissions across most of the economy, because corporations can pollute without penalty,” Bandt said.
by Katharine Murphy | The Guardian