The resources minister Matt Canavan has shrugged off Australia’s trend of rising emissions, saying the industry responsible for the growth is gas, and Australian gas exports reduce carbon emissions in other countries.
After a government report to the United Nations showed Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions continued to rise in 2018, Canavan told Sky News people needed to take a “balanced viewpoint” when assessing the trend.
“A lot of people comment on the fact that carbon emissions have gone up in Australia in the last couple of years, and they have, but that’s almost principally due to the construction or bringing online of LNG export terminals,” Canavan said on Wednesday.
“Yes, from a carbon accounting perspective, that increases Australia’s carbon emissions because we are the country where the gas is liquified, however the gas is then used in other countries and they use the gas to replace, often coal, but sometimes dirtier forms of power, and that helps the world’s carbon emissions,” he said.
“So we’ve got to take a balanced viewpoint here because I certainly think the export of Australian gas is helping the world lower its carbon emissions even though there is an issue in how it is accounted for country to country”.
The new report to the UN shows again that Australia faces a huge task in meeting its obligations under the Paris agreement despite the government’s insistence it has laid out “to the last tonne” how it will do this.
The national inventory report to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) says preliminary estimates indicate Australia’s net greenhouse gas emissions in 2018 were 537 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.
This is an increase from 534.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2017.
Emissions rose in individual sectors including transport, fugitive emissions (leaks from other activities such as methane from a coalmine) and stationary energy (fuels burnt in equipment or plants not involved in electricity generation) and there were decreases in the electricity sector.
The report also presents the final emissions figures for 2017, which it says were an increase of 4.3m tonnes on 2016, or 0.8%.
Australia’s emissions have increased every year for the past four years. Emissions for the year to September 2018 went up 0.9% on the previous year, according to the latest Australian government inventory, primarily due, as Canavan says, to a 19.7% increase in LNG exports.
But there were also increases in stationary energy, transport, fugitive emissions, industrial processes and waste sectors. Transport emissions increased 2% over the year to September, and the Morrison government pilloried Labor in the recent election campaign for pursuing a vehicle emissions standard to drive pollution reduction in the transport fleet.
Emissions in Australia’s electricity sector continued to fall according to that data, courtesy of a 12.3% reduction in brown coal supply, and a 14.2% increase in generation from renewable sources. Canavan said on Wednesday he wanted the Morrison government to get moving on a new coal-fired plant for north Queensland before the end of the current term.
The report to the UN comes as the government is due to release its final emissions figures for 2018, which are published quarterly through the environment department.
The government’s energy and emissions reduction minister, Angus Taylor, told media this week the government’s climate targets were “ambitious”, despite the fact that its 26%-28% emissions reduction target is not considered to be aligned with the Paris goal of limiting global heating to no more than 2 degrees.
On Tuesday, Taylor said Labor, which took a 45% target to the election, should back away from this policy and “agree to the 26% target”.