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National Greenhouse Accounts Released

By various experts

The latest National Greenhouse Accounts, which compare Australia’s emissions to our Kyoto Protocol obligations, show that Australia’s carbon pollution is currently tracking at 104% of 1990 levels. Australia’s Kyoto Protocol target is to limit emissions to 108% of 1990 levels, on average, over the period from 2008–12.

“A striking feature of the data is that aggregate emissions have remained unchanged since 2008, although GDP has increased by 15% in that time. The fact that the link between GDP growth and emissions has been broken is encouraging evidence that we can achieve substantial reductions in emissions without damaging living standards.”

Professor John Quiggin is an Australian Research Council Federation Fellow at the School of Economics, University of Queensland.

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“The National Greenhouse Accounts reveal that the total greenhouse gas emissions in Australia rose by 0.6% over the last year and Australia remains on track to meet its Kyoto Protocol target. This result is just about what was expected, and indeed is ‘no big deal’. This target itself is a straw man, given that it involves an increase in emissions when we actually need to reduce them.

“What is much more important is what is likely to happen in the future. The carbon pricing under the government’s ‘carbon tax’ policy should assist the effort to contain the growth in emissions. However, even with the carbon price it is unlikely that there would be a fall in emissions during 2012 unless there is a dramatic fall in economic activity in the remainder of the year (which none of us want).

“To reduce Australia’s carbon emissions significantly will need a change in the way the economy works and a transition, as soon as possible, to a low carbon technology. However, there is currently not great optimism about the rate of progress.

“Electricity generation is the sector with the largest emissions. The best renewable prospect in this sector is wind power, but we are at an embryonic stage when it comes to the roll-out of this technology.

“Coal will be king for many years to come. Even with the carbon price regime implied by the introduction of the government’s ‘carbon tax’, there will be little incentive for generators to replace coal-fired power stations.”

Professor Kevin Parton is from the School of Management and Marketing at Charles Sturt University. He is a Strategic Professor in the Institute for Land, Water and Society.

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“The release of the National Greenhouse Accounts assists in putting into perspective the magnitude of the task facing Australia in its attempts to reduce emissions from 1990 levels. It also highlights the specific areas in which major reductions are required.

“The greenhouse gas report reveals that total net emissions are now 13.6% higher than in 1990. But the percentage change over that period varies greatly between sectors, with some sectors actually exhibiting decreased emissions. The land use (including land use change and forestry) sector has emissions 59.2% lower than 1990 levels, although the decreasing trend here has mainly been driven by declines in the conversion of forest land to cropland and grassland. Decreased emissions are also recorded for the agriculture and waste sectors (down 8.1% and 19.1%, respectively).

“While these percentage decreases appear significant, they need to be put into perspective by comparison with the sectors exhibiting increases. The three sectors noted above exhibiting decreases represented reductions of 65.3 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent, down from 196.9 tonnes in 1990 to 131.6 tonnes in 2010. The energy sector, though, recorded the greatest increase in emissions, with a 44.2% increase from 1990 levels. But this increase amounted to an additional 127.9 tonnes of emissions, an increase roughly twice the magnitude of the decrease in the three decreasing emissions sectors.

“This highlights the magnitude of the task facing the energy sector in attempting to substitute renewable energy sources for current ones.”

Professor Graeme Wines is a Professor in Accounting in the School of Accounting, Economics and Finance at Deakin University.

Source: AusSMC