However, the Australian government’s new forecasts, to be released on Saturday, point to a downward revision in national emissions to 2030 that show – for the first time – Australia’s cumulative emissions will be 16 million tonnes lower than the target set under the Paris agreement.
The federal energy department attributes this to the growing contribution of large-scale renewable energy projects in the electricity sector and higher take-up of rooftop solar panels compared to previous estimates, and the government’s $3.5 billion Climate Solutions Package.
According to the new projections, Australia will need the Kyoto carryover credits to achieve about half of the reductions required under the Paris agreement, which commits Australia to cut emissions on 2005 levels by 26 to 28 per cent by 2030.
Australia’s emissions would need to fall a cumulative 695 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2-e) between now and 2030 to satisfy the Paris commitment and about 365 million tonnes equivalent would come from the carryover credits.
However, Australian National University Climate Change Institute professor Mark Howden said despite a small decrease of 0.75 per cent in the total emissions over the past 12 months, when using the unadjusted seasonal data, the government’s own report showed the emissions trend was still going up.
“On a trend basis, emissions were more than 0.13 per cent higher compared with the previous year. This is because the trend data allows somewhat for the effects of the current drought and recent floods, which have driven livestock numbers down by more than 7 per cent with corresponding reductions in emissions,” Professor Howden said.
“So, the seasonal emission reductions nationally are essentially linked to the climate-related misfortunes of our rural industries.
“The other major contribution our rural sector is making to emission reductions is via reduced land-clearing resulting from land-clearing legislation and also through increased vegetation in some areas.”
In 2005, the land-use sector was a net source of emissions, producing about 87Mt CO2-e but in the past year, the land-use sector was a net sink of 19Mt CO2-e.
Professor Howden said if land use was excluded, the trend emissions from emitting industries hit a record high of 553.4MtCO2-e, a 6 per cent increase on 2005 levels.
Both the short-term emission reductions in the last year or so, and the longer-term emission reductions since 2005 … come from impacts on the rural sector in Australia.
Professor Mark Howden
“Both the short-term emission reductions in the last year or so, and the longer-term emission reductions since 2005 … come from impacts on the rural sector in Australia,” he said.
Mr Taylor said the latest projects did not include the abatement linked to technology improvements or the government’s national electric vehicle strategy, which would be finalised in 2020.
“The government is developing a technology investment road map to identify the most efficient deployment pathways for new technologies, to ensure Australia can continue to capitalise on low-cost abatement opportunities over the near (to 2022), medium (to 2030) and long term (post-2030),” Mr Taylor said.
“Our commitment is achievable, balanced and responsible, and is part of co-ordinated global action to deliver a healthy environment for future generations while keeping our economy strong.”
Business reporter for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.
Mike is the climate and energy correspondent for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.