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Fiddling the figures while the planet burns – Fact-checking Frydenberg

In an interview on ABC radio last Thursday, Josh Frydenberg was eventually forced to admit that emissions rose again last year as they have every year since the repeal of the carbon price.

He then went on his usual obfuscation rant of cherry picking data and making dubious claims.

“If you look at the last quarter [emissions] went down, if you look at the trend it is improving”.

Actually, whilst the seasonally adjusted emissions decreased 0.6% in the June quarter 2017, trend emissions increased 0.3% when compared to the March quarter 2017.

Annual emissions increased 0.7%. If you include Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF), emissions rose 1.3% over the year.

Mr Frydenberg then stated that emissions on a per capita and GDP basis were at “their lowest in 28 years”.

Whilst these may be useful comparative measurements, they make absolutely no sense in the grand scheme of things because the atmosphere doesn’t really care how many of us there are. It is our absolute emissions that make the difference, not any per capita or GDP comparisons.

“What you need to focus on here is what is happening in different aspects of the economy as a result of policies we are putting in place,” he said. “What we are seeing is real improvements in various aspects of the economy.”

Mr Frydenberg pointed to the national energy productivity plan (NEEP) which aims to boost energy efficiency in the built environment by 40 per cent by 2030.

Except when you read the NEEP annual report it says “2015–16 saw Australia’s primary energy consumption increase sharply, slowing the rate of improvement in energy productivity to 0.4 per cent (compared to a 15-year average of 1.7 per cent a year).”

Frydenberg also referred to the emissions reduction fund, focused on agriculture and the land sector, which he claimed has abated up to 190 million tonnes of carbon dioxide at an average cost of $12 a tonne.

Except it hasn’t yet and probably won’t.

Some of the contracts last to 2025, the money is all but spent, and no new funds have been allocated. The government’s own goal is a “projected abatement estimate for the Emissions Reduction Fund to 2020 of 92 Mt CO2-e”.

A well-researched, well-sourced paper released in December shows how dubious the process for verifying and certifying emissions reductions under the ERF is, how it has led to “rent-seeking” from existing projects, and how the accounting is being fudged.

“Government claims regarding abatement of greenhouse gas emissions so far achieved under the scheme should be discounted. We are counting as new benefit steps that have either never occurred, or that happened in the past.”

According to the government’s latest quarterly update, in 2016-17, Australia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions were “0.8% below emissions in 2000 and 9.1% below emissions in 2005”.

Except the emissions projection report states the following emissions by year (Table 3 p12):

2000 551

2005 597

2017 554

2020 551

2030 570

We committed to a 5% reduction on 2000 levels by 2020 yet the projections are for no decrease at all. We then dodgily changed the base year and committed to a 26-28% decrease on 2005 levels by 2030 but the projections instead show a 4.5% decrease (or a 3.4% increase on 2000 levels).

The projections report states that “The 2030 target will require between 868 and 934 Mt CO2-e in cumulative emissions reductions between 2021 and 2030 to meet the 26 per cent and 28 per cent targets respectively.”

Not to worry.

Reminiscent of Nero, this government will continue to fiddle the figures while the planet burns, pretending they are doing something other than commissioning and ignoring reports.


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  1. susanai

    Fact checking FRYdenberg is a dizzying thing!

  2. townsvilleblog

    Not even the climate skeptics could retain the idea that the planet is not warming, getting hotter. Living in tropical North Queensland air conditioners are a must for those who can afford them, and can afford to run them on grid power. I have recently put my money where my mouth is and purchased an upgrade to our solar array to increase if to 5.84kW including battery power, as a result we draw very little power from the grid, but put a huge amount into the grid. My theory is that the more power I can supply to the grid, the less coal will need to be burnt.
    The climatic calamities can be seen on almost a weekly basis now, and if more people don’t wake up and save to install solar power things can only get worse. Please see the benefits of renewable energy and lobby for hydro, solar, wind, and any other renewable energy that governments like the progressive South Australian government installed to become commonplace.

  3. Rob

    Mr Coal, staying on message, even when he is WRONG. Must have really hurt dutton that Mr Coal couldn’t lie his way out and on the radio

  4. Aortic

    Thank you Kaye for the insights you and your colleagues provide for us. We generally have so many stats, purported facts, averages et al thrown at us ( generally yelled during Question Time) it is difficult for the average punter to sort out fact from fiction. I suppose from a cynical point of view we should treat all of their utterings with some degree of scepticism and go from there, but articles like yours and others do provide a more than useful insight into as much of the “truth” that can be gleaned.

  5. Rossleigh

    From A WORLD OF THREE ZEROES: “At the time, this achievement made Grameen Shakti one of the world’s largest suppliers of solar home systems. Since then, renewable energy has grown at an amazing pace—and Grameen Shakti has led the way. We celebrated the installation of our one millionth solar home system with a ceremony in January 2013, and as of early 2017, the number of homes we serve has now surpassed 1.8 million. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of this accomplishment. Most villages in Bangladesh are not served by the national energy grid. Those that are connected find the energy supply often interrupted by outages. And, of course, traditional sources of electrical power like gas-or coal-fired plants contribute significantly to climate change, whose terrible impact on Bangladesh I’ve already mentioned.”

    Outages?!? From the grid using coal and gas? Surely it’s only renewable energy that’s unreliable…

  6. Kronomex

    When I saw that photo at the top of the article I first thought that it was Il Duttonuci but there’s more hair. Friedeggburger and Duncehead could almost be twins. Horrifying thought.

    A “claim” by the Trembles gubmint is just a guess dressed differently.

  7. diannaart


    I too have been concerned – have Mr Potato Head and Friedburger ever been seen in the same room together?

    Back to topic, does anyone has some idea of Nick Xenophon’s reaction to Jay Weatherill’s work on renewables in SA? I ask this because I believe there’s a good chance Nick will replace Jay as premier – because people just want change and think Nick is hilarious and a jolly good bloke ‘n all. Of course, anyone following the Xen’s career would know he is great at self promotion and ambitiously resourceful, not quite the same thing as being a “good bloke”.

    While the Fed government strategy to diss Labor states in the hope the LNP will benefit, enough dirt may have stuck to give Nick the edge over Jay.

    In spite of the gains in renewable tech around Australia, until we have some sanity in Canberra, things are going to have to get worse before they get better.

  8. Glenn Barry

    I am somewhat concerned that Nick Z will take the SA Premiereship, hopefully Jay gets across the line as I believe he deserves to triumph given the sustained abuse and dishonesty he has endured from Canberra.

    It’s truly perplexing the sustained lying emanating from both Frydenberg and Turnbull – at some point the dishonesty catches up with them, doesn’t it?

  9. Kaye Lee

    According to an article published on 13 November 2017,

    “Since July last year, 1,608 properties in Queensland have notified an intention to clear a total of almost 945,755 hectares of land. Almost all of it is “remnant” forest or bushland – a term used to describe forest that hasn’t previously been cleared. There was also an additional 80,200ha of “high-value agriculture” land approved for clearing, making a total of 1.02m hectares of clearing in the pipeline.

    If it goes ahead it would undo the work of more than $1bn the federal government has spent paying other landholders not to clear their land, in order to cut carbon emissions under the Coalition’s Direct Action policy.

    Only a small fraction of land clearing in Queensland needs to be notified, meaning the actual amount of planned clearing is much larger.

    The rise in planned clearing – which could be a sign of “panic clearing” before a planned crackdown if Labor is re-elected – would also cause a spike in sediment washing onto the Great Barrier Reef. [Let’s hope the re-elected Labor government does use their majority to crackdown]

    The more than 1m ha of land earmarked for clearing would result in more than 90m tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.”


    How many natural disasters – how many cyclones, floods, droughts, bushfires, heatwaves – will it take for Queenslanders to say no to coal and no to cutting down trees? How long before they use the solar potential with small scale pumped hydro or other storage? How long before they find a sensible way to encourage and incentivise rooftop solar for homes and businesses? Why give gas so much power when there is a market glut? It takes a lot of power to make it into LNG for export. Aluminium smelters also use an enormous amount of power. Let THEM get creative about finding cleaner energy sources to meet their demand rather than taking from the national grid pushing up the need for fossil fuel burning.

  10. Frank Smith

    Kaye Lee,

    The Coalition are blatant in their lies, obfuscation and spin – regrettably the Murdoch press amplify this and it seems that many of the voting public are only too keen to take the bait proffered by Murdoch.

    As a Queenslander, I have recognised the incongruity involved in spending billions of taxpayers dollars on so-called Direct Action whilst allowing landholders open slather on land clearing in the Sunshine State – pay the left hand not to cut down useless scrubland no one in their right mind would clear in any case whilst encouraging the right hand to clear as much timber as possible. What a racket – it just makes me shake my head! The last Palaszczuk State Government tried to limit the land clearing, but were prevented from doing so when one of their own teamed up with the LNP and the Katter boys to prevent the legislation going through. We are hopeful that the new Government which is not so constricted by the numbers will be able to do something about this ridiculous situation fairly soon.

    Queensland’s large aluminium smelter derives its power from the adjacent coal-fired 1680MW Gladstone Power Station. Built by the State Electricity Commission it was sold to the consortium that owns the aluminium smelter in 1994. So, the smelter gets first call on electricity generated by Gladstone and excess is sold back to the grid. It would be interesting to find out how much electricity the huge export LNG plants in Gladstone use in compressing and liquefying coal seam gas for export and what arrangements they have in place for purchasing that electricity from the Gladstone power station and/or the grid.

  11. Peregrine McCauley

    ” Oh I must say Holmes ” , I expostulated , deftly tucking Mrs Hudson’s laundered napkin into my collar . Four buttered elite Home Guard , with egg spoon , stood firm , awaiting orders . ” Bit rum this , tossing coal around in the lower house , hey what ” ? . Momentarily , a wave of empathy consumed my conscience , as the beleaguered stood unwavering . The Times dropped from my clasp , to expose the languid movement of my fellow . Arising from his chair , moving across our open window , coal infused light subsided . Replaced with the silhouette of a man with a pronounced nose . The eclipse inadvertently rendered my command obsolete , the siege , unfettered , run amok . ‘ Watson we have no moment to lose ” ! Pipe ash erupted , my corporal leapt into my breast pocket . ” Dammee Holmes , no smoking on sundays , Mrs Hudson will be here shortly ” ! With askance , he viewed my breakfast scenario . ” Moriarty ” ! With the prevailing waft of smouldering slipper and a home guard in retreat , both our attention turned to the sound of our lower door , opening and closing . His grey blue eyes wandered into my own . Steps and sound clattered upwards . With out the means to suppress the inevitable , I quickly hastened to address my defeat . Pushing my neckerchief toward my whiskers , accompanied with aromatic redolence of slipper fire , I wished Moriarty was here . The clickering and clattering ceased . To be replaced with …..” Oh it’s just too bad ” !

  12. Kronomex

    4.28 pm – What the f–k?

    And atrociously written as well.

  13. paul walter

    Cry from the heart and mind deeply appreciated, Kaye Lee. Thel and clearance thing is a deep set, entrenched lunatic trait.

  14. Peregrine McCauley

    Can you read?

  15. John Lord

    Freydenberg. Walks around oblivious to it all.

  16. Andreas Bimba

    The Liberals and Nationals are very competent liars. They really can present black as white and white as black IF you are ignorant or stupid enough to believe them.

    Thanks Kaye for the balanced truth.

    I don’t particularly trust Labor either and Queensland Labor is a clear example and see the solution as the breaking of the stranglehold on power of the no real choice duopoly.

    The Greens, Xenophon, other micro-parties and independents and even One Debased Nation are part of the slow drift to a true multi party system that will then be locked in when a system of proportional representation for the important lower houses of our parliaments.

    Then Labor may reform as UK Labour has and the Greens may be the largest partner in a progressive coalition government.

    Then we can have the Green New Deal.

  17. Kronomex

    Yes I can, but it’s still atrociously written.

  18. Aortic

    Even the UnAustralian is saying this latest much vaunted Snowy Scheme is a dud. Won’t stop them spending millions on Consultants and a feasibility study. As old “Sid Vicious” used to say ALL governments get far too much money. Note the cartoon in today’s SMH, spot on.

  19. Peregrine McCauley

    Least I can spell. ! Don’t need blanks – – !

  20. Kronomex

    Petty, very petty. And for those who the blanks filled in, “u and c.” Happy now?

  21. Peregrine McCauley

    At least I can spell ! Don’t need blanks . How does it go ? That’s right , it goes , – – . Wow what a mind !!

  22. Kronomex

    You might be able to spell but your sentence construction is way off. Go back and carefully reread what you wrote and see where you have made an a lot errors in the writing of that paragraph. Here’s a clue, “Least I can spell. ! Don’t need blanks – – !” should read. “At least I can spell. I don’t need blanks.” The exclamation marks are superfluous. You will no doubt want to get in the last word and good luck to you, I have better things to do.

    Good night and have fun with whatever you are doing.

  23. Rossleigh

    Not sure what your point is, Peregrine.
    Perhaps you should try to explain why the need for the Sherlock Holmes references.
    Perhaps you should try to explain why feel the need to express confidence in your spelling ability.
    Whatever, I’m unclear what you’re trying to achieve. Could you be clearer?

  24. Miriam English

    This written in a genuine attempt to be helpful…

    Peregrine, blanks can be useful. If you add a blank line to create a new paragraph every time a different person speaks it makes it much, much easier to read. When I write something I tend to go back over it and break it up into paragraphs to increase its readability. Each character speaking should have their own paragraph. Each new topic should have a new paragraph. The breaks help the reader locate their position on the page and pace the style of the text.

    However, certain extra blanks can actually impede understanding. The extra blanks you have between text and the quotation marks enclosing it make it quite difficult to read. You should keep the quotes tight around the text to indicate which text the quotes belong to. If you don’t do that then the reader is distracted spending time trying to work out what is being quoted and what is descriptive.

    Also, most punctuation should come immediately after the word it is pausing, and then followed by a space. Extra spaces before the punctuation makes it difficult to read, again distracting the reader and making it difficult for you to get your message across.

    Note also that punctuation that is part of some dialogue should be inside the quotes. For example: ”Oh, it’s just too bad!”

    As Rossleigh said, it would be useful to give a line or two, perhaps near the end, to mention how this connects to the topic at hand. It really is not obvious. It may be obvious to you, but that’s the job of a writer: to communicate.

    When we don’t succeed in our writing as well as hoped, it is often (though not always) the writer who has failed to present their ideas in the best way. We are often tempted to blame the reader, but usually we simply haven’t presented it well enough to excite the reader. Everything that distracts the reader from what we’ve written breaks the train of thought we’re trying to convey.

    Please don’t take this as dismissive. Note the amount of time I’ve spent in explaining this. I would not spend this much effort if I wanted to merely insult you. I assume you were genuinely trying to communicate something. That makes what you were trying to say worthwhile. It deserves to be said well. I’m trying to help you with that.

    Best wishes. Please try again.

  25. Kaye Lee

    I always told my maths students that, if they didn’t understand, it was my fault for not explaining it well enough.

  26. Frank Smith

    It seems that Peregrine has hijacked this important thread with irrelevant nonsense. That is not what the AIMN is all about so please desist from commenting on that hijack and get back to the relevant and important points that Kaye Lee was making.

  27. Keith

    It is quite difficult to find an appropriate word to characterise the LNP attitude to climate change. Since 2013, we have been told periodically that emissions are going down by Hunt, and now Friedenberg; except that is not true; the baseline was deceptively changed. Unethical would seem to be too tame a view; as are malfeasance or manipulation. Sending extra CO2 into the atmosphere has a deleterious effect on climate in the future, creating death, and improbable at best huge costs for today’s children.

    The LNP is promoting coal as hard as they can; some of the bright sparks in the LNP state climate scientists are wrong in relation to the impact of greenhouse gases; they accuse climate scientists of virtually lying. Yet, the science of climate change began in the 1820s through Fourier. In those days there were no mad neo-liberals or libertarians trying to scotch science on behalf of their fossil fuel mining mates.

    It can be stated that the LNP with their plans to push fossil fuels as hard as they can are stealing from young people’s chance to live in circumstances that enhance life. The American Meteorological Society has stated in a non-ambiguous way that the major storms experienced by the US in 2017 could only be explained by climate change adding to already powerful storms.

    The appropriate words are “stealing” and “manslaughter” as we know how to reduce pollution from emissions that are deadly in large cities.

  28. Max Gross

    Oh FFS! It’s facile Frydenberg! It’s the phony LNP! They lie as a matter of policy. Lying is what keeps the bastards going! Lying is core LNP. Even their name is a lie. The only thing the “Liberals” are liberal with is the truth!

  29. wam

    Kaye the billion was to stimulate the economy in the carbon business.

    The majority of people who vote lnp believe there is not man made climate change and even if there is they agree with the gov(and trump) whatever we do is not worth a rat’s arse and it is costly.

    ps peregine.
    I am used to firing blanks. Pleased to have a superior marksman.

  30. Matters Not


    if they didn’t understand, it was my fault

    Re the my fault rationale. Does it then follow that the other is absolved from any blame when failure is the outcome?

    Seems to me that in any legitimate engagement (broadly defined) there’s obligations all round. And that should be stressed at the outset?

  31. johno

    Good stuff Kaye. Land clearing is madness. The war against nature drags on into 2018.

  32. David Evans

    Surely there will, or should be, charges of Crimes Against Humanity being laid against those who wilfully mislead and ignore the science of Climate Change. There has been several cases overseas of minors actually suing their “governments” for (at the least) negligence, so given Australias’ lying Environment Ministers, hunt and frydenberg, under the lying Prime Minsters, abbott and turnbull, shouldn’t it be possible to establish a crowd funding group, or better still, have Environment Protection Lawyers instigate proceedings pro bono? It is obviously way past time for us all to get serious, There Is No Planet B.

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