Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions rise again, according to delayed Federal Government data

Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions have reached record highs in many sectors, continuing an upward trend that began in 2013, according to official Government figures released on Thursday.

The Federal Government’s Quarterly Update of the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory for the three months to December 2018 shows emissions increased by 0.8 per cent seasonally adjusted, compared to the previous quarter.

That increase was, in part, driven by emissions from LNG for export, diesel consumption across transport, and metal manufacturing.

“While emissions increases from the rapid growth of LNG exports are included in Australia’s emissions in the report, the success of this industry means that it has potentially reduced global emissions by up to 27 per cent of Australia’s annual emissions in the year to December 2018,” Energy Minister Angus Taylor said in a statement.

“The Morrison Government is not going to trash successful Australian export industries that are reducing global emissions, in order to reduce Australian emissions.”

Bill Hare, director of climate analytics — an international science and policy institute — said the export argument did not stack up.

“Those are dubious claims because the arguments are exaggerated and do not take full consideration of fugitive emissions,” he said.

“There is very little action being taken at the moment in Australia to limit future emissions … we’re way behind the world’s best practice there.

“We are headed in the wrong direction, and I don’t know any expert in this field who would say otherwise.”

Per-capita vs overall emissions

The results renew questions about the effectiveness of the Government’s existing policies to cut local emissions and meet Australia’s international reduction commitments made under the Paris Agreement.

The Prime Minister has previously said Australia would meet its Paris Agreement obligations “in a canter”.

Last month, the Government reported its 2017 emissions figures to the UN, and in that report it contained a preliminary estimate of the total greenhouse gas emissions for 2018.

The Government has emphasised, on a per-capita basis, Australia’s emissions have been dropping, but with Australia’s population growing, actual emissions are still rising.

Excluding emissions estimated from land clearing, which are widely contested, Australia’s emissions are now at an all-time high, according to new figures released on Thursday.

Australia has committed to help keep global warming at well below 2 degrees Celsius and to strive to stop global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius.

As part of that promise, agreed to in Paris in 2015, the Government said it would reduce Australia’s emissions by at least 26 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

“Our national target is achievable, balanced and responsible. We will meet our international commitments while keeping power prices down, keeping the lights on, and keeping our economy strong,” Mr Taylor said.

Government missed data deadline

In the past, the Government has delayed the release of quarterly emissions updates, and often released multiple updates at once, including over the Christmas period.

A Senate order, passed by Labor and the Greens in October last year, means the Government must release the update within five months of the end of the quarter — the data period.

However, the Government still missed its latest deadline, which passed last Friday.

Mr Hare said renewables growth was strong, but that sector’s future was uncertain.

“With the Government talking about coal, it raises questions about subsidies,” he said.

“The good thing is that we can turn things around in Australia pretty quickly.

“If there were the right provisions in place to reduce vehicle emissions and encourage the update of electric vehicles, that could have a significant impact on emissions.”

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