Friday 23 December 2016

Malcolm Turnbull the king of pollution - Australia's greenhouse emissions rising

Australia's greenhouse gas emissions are rising and forecast to miss 2030 target
Official data quietly released before Christmas shows emissions rose 0.8% in the year to June and will miss 2030 goal based on current policies

22 December, 2016

Australia’s emissions are rising and projected to keep doing so to 2030, meaning the country will fail to meet its 2030 emissions targets, according to government figures.

The official quarterly figures, showing growth in year-on-year emisssions, confirms independent projections from Ndevr Environmental, released earlier this month by Guardian Australia, which predicted Australia’s emissions would be rising.

The government figures also confirm emissions are predicted to rise to 2030. Emissions that year are projected to be 10% higher than the year to June 2016.
By 2030, the report estimates Australia will have emitted 1bn tonnes more than it is allowed to, according to its 2030 commitments.

The figures were released on Thursday, just days before Christmas, despite the results being finalised in September, according to documents released on Wednesday night to the Australian Conservation Foundation under freedom of information laws.

The report from the Department of Environment and Energy clearly indicated that current policies would not allow Australia to meet its 2030 emissions targets.

These results reflect the fact that the government’s policies are primarily geared towards the 2020 target at this stage,” the report said. Australia’s 2020 targets allow its total emissions to rise.

Australia's quarterly emissions
Showing megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent gasses
Original emissions
Seasonally adjusted and weather normalised
Jun 06
Mar 08
Dec 09
Sep 11
Jun 13
Mar 15
Guardian graphic | Source: NGGI

The report notes the projections do not take account of policies that might emerge from the government’s 2017 review of climate policy – a review the government has now said will not include discussion of any form of carbon price, including an emissions intensity scheme.

The Climate Institute’s chief executive, John Connor, said if the government continued with its current policy of paying polluters to lower emissions it would cost the taxpayer dearly.

With the government ruling out a policy option that would make companies take responsibility for their own emissions, this billion-tonne gap could see taxpayers slugged for $12bn to $55bn if the Emissions Reduction Fund remains the government’s principal policy tool,” Connor said.

These results are a national embarrassment, so it’s not surprising that the government has released this data as close as possible to Christmas. Despite having committed through the Paris agreement to reduce our emissions to net zero, our emissions are still going up, not down – and it is because we don’t have effective policies to reduce them,” Connor said.

The report already assumes 2,000 megawatts of coal power will be retired after 2020 and a doubling of electricity generated from rooftop solar between 2020 and 2030.

The figures are an improvement over projections made in 2015, when the government expected 2030 emissions to be almost double what it now expects them to be.

Australia's projected emissions v emissions targets
Projected emissions have an upper and lower estimate, which could range from 571 MtCO2-e to 616 by 2030
2016 emission projections
Upper 2016 projection estimate
Lower 2016 projection estimate
Trajectory to minus 5% target
Trajectory to minus 26% target
Trajectory to minus 28% target
600 Mt CO2-e
Guardian graphic | Source: NGGI

The report said the change in the projected emissions is a result of Hazelwood –Australia’s dirtiest coal power station – closing; projected increases in energy efficiency; lower emissions from land clearing; and changes in the way emissions are counted.

This is an improvement of 187% since we last updated our emissions projections,” said Josh Frydenberg, the minister for the environment and energy.

Australian Conservation Foundation economist Matthew Rose said: “Transition for the electricity sector is a crucial environment and economic reform that today’s data shows is being neglected. It is also disappointing the government has decided to release such critical data so close to Christmas in what one can only assume is a tactic to avoid scrutiny.”

The pre-Christmas release of two quarters worth of data, plus emissions projections, mirrors the government’s actions last year, when it released data on Christmas Eve showing emissions were rising.

Documents released to the Australian Conservation Foundation show a final version of the March quarterly results was circulated as long ago as September.

On 10 September 2016, an email from a senior Department of Environment and Energy bureaucrat to a recipient whose name was redacted, said: “Attached is the department’s final version of the quarterly update. I will give you a call on Monday to discuss.”

Another email between bureaucrats in the department, dated 3 November said: “I am just following up last night’s email on the quarterly update and to note that we are expecting some agitation on the delay in the release to the quarterly update soon.”

It is unclear from the correspondence if any significant revisions were made between September and Thursday’s release.

According to the new figures, Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions rose 0.8% in the year to June 2016. And in the year to March 2016, emissions were up 1.3%.

The results are even worse than those predicted by Ndevr Environmental, which earlier projected emissions would be up by 0.4% in the year to June 2016. But comparisons have been made difficult since the government changed its methodology in the most recent figures.

The Labor spokesperson for climate change and energy, Mark Butler, said: “These results under Malcolm Turnbull are worse than anything Australia experienced under the known climate sceptic Tony Abbott.”

The rise is startling, even more than projected by independent analysis,” Butler said.

The Greens climate change and energy spokesman, Adam Bandt, said: “Malcolm Turnbull once said ‘we must make a dramatic reduction in the world’s greenhouse gas emissions’, yet Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are actually rising under his leadership.

Malcolm Turnbull is now the king of pollution.”

In a statement, Frydenberg chose to focus on the government’s 2020 target, which will be met using “carry over” from Australia beating it’s Kyoto protocol target.

The Kyoto target allowed for Australia to continue increasing emissions. But Australia beat that target by increasing emissions by less than it was allowed to. The amount that it beat that target by was allowed to be “carried over” and counted as abatement towards its 2020 target. That again allowed Australia to potentially meet its 2020 target without actually reducing emissions.

Official figures show Australia beat its first Kyoto protocol emissions target and is now on target to beat its 2020 emissions reduction target by 224m tonnes,” Frydenberg said. “This is an improvement of 187% since we last updated our emissions projections.”

Frydenberg also took aim at Labor’s carbon tax. “Our policies like the Emissions Reduction Fund are working to reduce Australia’s emissions at low cost, without driving up the price of electricity like Labor’s carbon tax did,” he said.

What this shows is that the government’s policies are working to reduce emissions without lobbing a $15.4bn carbon tax on households and businesses.”

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