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And still they ignore the existential threat posed by climate change

The most recent quarterly update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory states that emissions per capita, and the emissions intensity of the economy (emissions/$ of GDP), were at their lowest levels in 28 years in the year to December 2017, a fact loudly repeated by Josh Frydenberg in the hope that we won’t notice that emissions rose again last year as they have done ever since the Coalition took over.

The reality is that this has far more to do with large increases in population and GDP than any reduction strategies and are fairly pointless measurements.  The atmosphere doesn’t care how many of us there are or what our GDP is.

Emissions increased 1.5 per cent in 2017, with the main cause being the expansion in LNG exports which saw a 41.4% increase in LNG production in 2017 and a forecast increase in LNG production for 2018 of a further 18.1%.

Surprisingly, or perhaps not considering the price, domestic gas sales decreased by 9.7% in 2017.  We don’t have a gas supply problem, we have a regulation problem.

Bucking the trend in all other sectors, annual emissions from electricity decreased by 3.1%, reflecting weakening demand (0.5%) in the National Electricity Market (NEM) and a reduction in brown coal generation.

Over the last ten years, coal generation has decreased from 85% of total generation to 75%. Conversely, gas has increased from 9% to 11% and renewable generation (predominantly wind and hydro) has increased from 7% to 14% of total generation.

Much has been made of Tony Abbott’s promise to add one million jobs in five years, but no-one seems to remember that he also promised to add one million additional solar energy roofs by 2020.  That promise never even made it to the starting line.

With the reducing price of solar panels and improvements in battery storage, we are well-placed to benefit from the abundance of sunshine in this country.  There have also been thousands of potential sites identified for small scale pumped hydro to act as storage.

Our government committed to the woefully inadequate target of, by 2020, a 5 per cent reduction in emissions compared to 2000.  According to the report, our emissions last year were 2.4 per cent below emissions in 2000.  Any claim that we have met, or will meet, our target relies on accounting skulduggery.  The facts are clear – in 2000 we emitted 547.0 Mt CO2 -e, in 2017 emissions were 533.7 Mt CO2 -e.

Many countries used 1990 as the year they based their 2020 emission reduction targets on, for example Norway who committed to a 30% reduction and the EU, 20%, on 1990 emissions.

In Australia, from 1990 to 2017, emissions from electricity increased 42.4% and stationary energy excluding electricity grew 47.3%. Emissions from transport grew 62.9%, fugitive emissions increased by 48.8%, and industrial processes and product use increased 37.4%.

The only reason we have seen a 7.5% reduction in emissions since 1990 is because Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) decreased by 114.5%.

Which is amazing considering, in Queensland alone, woody vegetation loss was around 395,000 hectares in 2015-16.  More than 1 million hectares of native bush and forest has been cleared in Queensland over the last four years.  Thankfully, the Paluscez government has recently reintroduced the land-clearing legislation that Newman so foolishly abolished.

The report also stated that the past six years have seen a strong increase in diesel consumption of 26.9%.  The transport sector has seen the highest growth in emissions since 1990 because growth in transport activity outpaced improvements in fuel efficiency. While per person ownership and use of light passenger vehicles has stabilised after decades of growth, freight and aviation activity continues to grow.

This represents an area where real improvements could be made by improving vehicle efficiency, moving to alternative fuels with potentially lower emissions, such as electricity, natural gas and sustainable biofuels, improving public transport, staggering freight deliveries and working hours to avoid congestion, decentralisation and small scale enterprises so freight doesn’t have to be transported as far, enabling people to work from home etc.

Action on climate change is an increasingly urgent priority yet this government chooses to ignore the myriad of ways in which we could be acting to try to avoid the inevitable catastrophe that will follow the out-of-control global warming their greed and irresponsible ideology is causing.

And I haven’t even mentioned a price on carbon which is the obvious first step.  Removing it did not stop the inexorable rise in electricity prices.

A few short years ago we were leaders in this field.  Thanks to the Coalition, we have gone a long way backwards, making future action much more expensive and even more urgent.


15 comments

  1. Florence Howarth

    Where are the millions of trees Abbott was to plant?

  2. Florence Howarth

    Money from a price on carbon was being used by industry to transfer to cleaner & cheaper technology, resulting in cheaper costs. Savings that would be ongoing. Some became self-efficient in energy. All this disappeared with Abbott.

    Along with the price on carbon, most received compensation for any electricity rises.

    The result is now emissions rising, power prices going through the roof.

  3. Kaye Lee

    Like this announcement from Canada 10 days ago…..

    A revolutionary process to make aluminum produces oxygen and replaces all direct greenhouse gas emissions from the traditional aluminum smelting process.

    Alcoa and Rio Tinto launch new joint venture, Elysis, for larger scale development and commercialization of the process, with a technology package planned for sale beginning in 2024.

    Alcoa, Rio Tinto, the Government of Canada, the Government of Quebec and Apple agree to provide a combined investment of $188 million (CAD).

    Apple helped facilitate the collaboration between Alcoa and Rio Tinto on the carbon-free smelting process, and has agreed to provide technical support to the JV partners.

    Technology represents the culmination of decades’ worth of research and development. Elysis will have access to a host of patents and intellectual property.

    http://news.alcoa.com/press-release/alcoa-and-rio-tinto-announce-worlds-first-carbon-free-aluminum-smelting-process

  4. diannaart

    Whatever action has been taken – whether it is the degradation of forests or, conversely, people switching to solar and other cheaper forms of energy, there will be a lag effect. Changes do not revel themselves within human devised time lines, a 7 day week or in neat 12 month spans. Even if we (the entire human race) suddenly grab the ball and get started right now, not a lot will change.

    One effort in favour of the environment will, by the inaction and deliberately retrogressive efforts of a self-interested federal government, mean Australia will fail the emissions reduction test. Only some creative statistics, as Kaye Lee has pointed out, will make any result appear to be in line with the Paris agreement (which was piss-weak anyway).

    Good economic managers plan for the long term and set short term goals in line with long term interests.

    Every time I hear one of the LNP drones prattle on about how bad Labor is … I swear every time they lie I die a little.

    Anyone out there who hates my guts – just keep on lying it sucks the life out of everything.

  5. Kaye Lee

    diannaart,

    It may give you a laugh to hear that the creative accounting is called the “True Up Period Report” – I kid you not.

    “In advance of the UN deadline of 2 January 2016, Australia submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) its Kyoto Protocol Report upon expiration of the additional period for fulfilling commitments by Australia, known as a “True Up Period Report” on 22 December 2015.

    The True Up Period Report is a technical report that provides the basis for the official UNFCCC assessment of each Kyoto Protocol Party’s compliance with its First Commitment Period (CP1) emission limitation or reduction commitment.

    Australia’s True Up Period Report demonstrates it over-achieved on its commitment. The Report provides information on:

    Kyoto Protocol carbon units retired by Australia to fulfil its CP1 commitment, totalling 2,711,153,478 Assigned Amount Units, AAUs.
    Kyoto Protocol carbon units surplus to Australia’s CP1 commitment that have been made available for use towards its 2020 emission reduction commitment: 149,419,065 Kyoto units, comprising 21,768,290 Certified Emissions Reduction (CER) and 127,650,775 AAUs.”

    http://www.environment.gov.au/climate-change/climate-science-data/greenhouse-gas-measurement/publications/kyoto-true-up-report

  6. diannaart

    “True-up” another weasel term to place alongside “alternative facts”.

    Of course, it is all Howard’s fault, he started it with his “core” and “non-core” promises.

    Well not really, George Orwell and before him Lewis Carroll have a great deal to answer for – at least they admitted they were writing fiction.

    Of course alternative faction began when humans learned how to speak and order others about and then there was the genesis of religion and prescribed method of interpreting the world.

  7. MikeW

    When I first arrived in Australia from the UK in the mid 1960’s I felt as if Australia was 10 years behind the times, we then caught up with the rest of the world. Now under this coalition government it looks like we are going back to the mid 1960’s or even back to the 50’s.

    If they get another term in government we are doomed…

  8. Kaye Lee

    I don’t think they even want another term in government. They would have to explain why they didn’t reach their promised surplus. They would have to explain why they didn’t reach their paltry emissions reduction target. They would have to explain why their tax cuts weren’t leading to higher wages or consumption. They would have to put up with Malcolm for another three years.

  9. MikeW

    It wouldn’t surprise me in the least Kaye Lee if this government won another term in office. Reading the Mudrake media online (the free bits) they are going gung ho to destroy the ABC,SBS or any other news outlet that disagrees with their far right wing ideals.
    Mudrake seems to have the majority of news outlets in Australia hopefully it is only the rwnj’s who contribute to his toxic media.

    Can’t wait to see the headlines when the next election is announced. The $30m gift to him who must be obeyed will certainly help the coalitions cause.

  10. king1394

    Florence Howarth reminds me that we need to be very suspicious of tree planting projects. As a Landcare/Bushcare volunteer I have seen huge amounts of money pulled from important and successful projects, and as an erstwhile Green Army Supervisor, I can tell you that having conscripted youth plant trees/shrubs/grasses is probably one of the least viable ways to actually increase vegetated habitat. It is so easy to announce ‘tree planting’ with no consideration of what species are needed where, let alone the simple fact that well designed regeneration projects start with major weed removal usually, and the plantings need to be across the range of trees, shrubs and grasses to create some resemblance to normality.
    I don’t think anyone has been back to check the work my Green Army group did in 2015 which is likely to mean few of the plants have actually survived. The process of accounting is easy: yes, on this date we planted x number of Eucalypts. Box ticked, no further considerations applied. So while there may have been millions of trees planted, there would be no knowledge of how many still survive.

  11. johno

    Well Kaye, it’s the 1950’s ya know. Interestingly enough, it was around the 1950’s when the climate temperature started it’s infamous rise to fame.

  12. Keith

    The LNP have promised to make a real effort to protect the Great Barrier Reef, sounds good. Yet, they are happy to allow land to be cleared on Cape York.Those factors display a mutually exclusive view in how the GBR should be protected.On one hand protect the reef, and on the other allow for runoff off Cape York which they wish to sort out further South.

    The main issue is warming waters which can only be tackled through reducing CO2 emissions. Wishing to open up huge coal mines in the Carmichael Basin is completely reckless. It is a case of believing politicians whom we know lie by commission or omission; or, believe scientists.

    The LNP are not tackling emissions; and so, have placed the future in the hands of fossil fuel companies. Science shows how this is plain dangerous.

  13. Craig L

    @Keith, “The LNP have promised to make a real effort to protect the Great Barrier Reef, sounds good”, until I read who is sitting on the Board of the main recipient group to get gov funding (Great Barrier Reef Foundation, GBRF). Private group GBRF is earmarked for $444M whereas the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority will only get $56M.
    The GBRF Board of Directors is stacked with background experience relating mainly to things NOT environmental. Most expertise is in areas of finance( Goldman Sachs, Salomon Bros, CBA, and firms specialising in green bonds, forex, etc), mining or manufacturing (Esso, BHP, Worley Parsons, Origin Energy, Rio Tinto) and property development (Lendlease, GPT property group, Mirvac).
    It’d be interesting to know what the LNP’s real plan is. Doubt it has much to do with Nemo.

  14. Andreas Bimba

    The developed world should have cut greenhouse gas emissions by about 6% per annum starting about 5 years ago in order to have a reasonable chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change. This level of cuts allows the developing world to increase emissions by a few percent per annum which is realistic given their very small per capita emissions. Concurrently very ambitious levels of reforestation and improved agricultural practices are also essential.

    We are not even half way to meeting these mandatory targets.

  15. Craig L

    Re the generosity of the LNP and their gift to the GBRF – Kristina Keneally twitter account today: “The Turnbull government gave $444m in this financial year to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation – “The biggest single grant to the Reef in Australian history” an official said at #estimates There was no grant application, no tender, no transparent process to allocate this money.”

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