Greenhouse gas figures show importance of carbon, renewables policy and emitter responsibility Media Release

Feb 05, 2014 - 1:47pm

Newly released national greenhouse gas emissions data shows that Australia needs stronger, not weaker limits on pollution, The Climate Institute said today. 

"The new greenhouse inventory data shows that the electricity sector, which is covered by the carbon laws, has seen significant declines in emissions. But this has been offset by increases in the coal and gas sector, deforestation and transportation emissions," said John Connor, CEO of The Climate Institute. 

"Electricity emissions continued their significant decline due to renewable energy and energy efficiency policies as well structural economic changes and the carbon price, the latter always intended to become a more major driver over time."

Australia’s total emissions rose by 1.3 per cent in the year from September 2012 to 2013. Emissions excluding land use, land use change and forestry fell 0.3 per cent, with the biggest decline in the electricity sector. Emissions from electricity fell by 5.5 per cent, or 10 million tonnes (See Table for details.)

“It is mischievous if not misleading of the Government to attack the effectiveness of the current carbon laws, when the Environment Department itself recently estimated that the carbon laws will have cut emissions by 40 million tonnes by July 2014.* That’s roughly the same as taking half of Australia’s cars off the road for a year – a significant achievement.” 

“The Government reacted to the new emissions data by highlighting rises in 'fugitive emissions', which are emissions from coal and gas mining and production processes mostly covered by the carbon laws. But it failed to point out that under the legislated pollution limit starting in 2015 net emissions from these sectors will fall.” 

“The laws which put a price and a limit on carbon pollution make companies take responsibility for these emissions in the most cost-effective way, whether through reductions in their sector or by offsets in other sectors or internationally.” 

“If the Government succeeds in removing requirement for coal and gas companies to take responsibility for their emissions, fugitive emissions will become a massive headache.”

“Similarly in the electricity sector, removal of the carbon laws and any weakening in renewable energy policies will see that sector return to greater use of coal fired power, and therefore greater emissions.” 

“The only alternatives to carbon markets are significant new regulatory restrictions, or massively increased government spending through its Emissions Reduction Fund.” 

"It is also important to note that sectors not covered by the carbon laws such as transport and deforestation are major growth areas in emissions urgently requiring stronger, not weaker policies. It is time, for example, for Australia to catch up on global vehicle standards. It is not time to be weakening land clearing regulation,” concluded Connor.   

For more information
Kristina Stefanova | Communications Director, The Climate Institute | 02 8239 6299       

*See p. 4 Australia’s Abatement Task and 2013 Emissions Projections, Commonwealth of Australia, Dec 2013

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