• John McDonnell

It’s time climate activists acknowledged Australia’s success in reducing emissions


The Williamdale Solar Farm south of Canberra

It is commonplace for climate activists in politics and the media to claim that Australia is an international pariah when it comes to climate action. This is often accompanied by misrepresentations of what has actually been achieved.


Greens leader, Adam Bandt, constantly claims Australia’s emissions have increased.


For some time journalists on the ABC referred to a graph that was prepared by their climate change section, that showed Australia’s emissions increasing.


Recently, Professor Mark Howden of the ANU, who is vice-chair of the International Panel on Climate Change, claimed on Fran Kelly’s ABC Radio National Breakfast, that any reduction in emissions in Australia was entirely due to land management or the Greens-Labor government carbon tax.


All of these claims are rubbish.


Australia has an independent body, the climate change authority, which publishes a ‘National Greenhouse Gas Inventory’.


The Australian Government has released the March 2021 Quarterly Update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, which shows emissions have fallen to the lowest level on record.


Emissions have continued to fall over the last year even as the Australian economy recovers from the global pandemic. The economy was 1.1 per cent larger in the March quarter 2021 relative to the March quarter 2020. On the same basis, emissions were 3.2 per cent lower than a year earlier.


In the year to March 2021, emissions were 494.2 million tonnes – 5.3 per cent or 27.8 million tonnes lower than in 2020.


Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are now at 20.8 per cent below 2005 levels (the baseline year for our 2030 Paris Agreement target).


Energy and emission reductions minister, Angus Taylor, continually claims that - just as Australia beat its 2020 target by 459 million tonnes - we are on track to meet and beat our 2030 Paris target.


When exports are excluded, domestic emissions are now 38.3 per cent below 2005 levels. This means that when measured on this basis, Australia will exceed 50 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030.


Emissions from electricity generation continued their long-term, structural decline in the year to March 2021, down 5.6 per cent or 9.7 million tonnes.


This continuing decline in emissions is driven by Australia’s world-leading deployment of solar and wind.


Since 2017, Australia has invested over $35 billion in renewables and in 2020 deployed new wind and solar PV at eight and a half times the global per capita average.


Fugitive emissions also fell 8.3 per cent or 4.5 million tonnes, with the ramp-up of the Gorgon carbon capture and storage facility in Western Australia making a significant contribution.


Transport emissions also fell by 13.2 per cent or 13.1 million tonnes.


Despite upward pressure from growth in exports and industry, emissions across the economy are now the lowest on a per capita basis in three decades.


The Government’s strong management of the economic and health response to the pandemic saw the Australian economy grow by 1.8 per cent during the March quarter, while emissions rose 0.3 per cent or 0.4 million tonnes in trend terms.


The production of exports for overseas markets generates 38.9 per cent of Australia’s total emissions. The value of Australia’s overseas exports has increased by around $110 billion since 2013, reflecting the Government’s strong economic management.


While there is still work to be done, this data shows the Government’s comprehensive suite of policies to meet its emissions reduction commitments, encourage innovation and back new and emerging low emissions technologies are working.


As part of the 2021-22 Budget, the Government announced a further $1.6 billion to bolster Australia’s position as a leader in low emissions technologies and to meet Australia’s emissions reduction targets, taking our total expected investment to more than $20 billion over the decade to 2030.


The government asserts that investing in low emissions technologies will enable Australia’s continued success in meeting and beating our emissions reduction targets.


Over the last two years, the projected emissions reductions required to achieve that target have fallen by 639 million tonnes – the equivalent of taking all of Australia’s 14.7 million cars off the road for 14 years.


Between 2005 and 2019, Australia reduced emissions faster than many similar economies, including Canada, New Zealand, Japan and the United States.