The latest emissions figures show just how far Australia has to go

by Polly Hemming

Counting land use might make things look better, but it is a fake picture of Australia’s emissions

Whenever you hear talk of emissions reduction, both the former and current government will often refer to how there has been a 22% fall since 2005. That would suggest we are around halfway to the 43% cut by 2030.

The problem is that measure includes land use – which allows the government to take credit for the vast amounts of land clearing that occurred in the first decade of this century and also bizarrely that in those years there was also a massive drought.

Land use has nothing to do with climate policy. The government is taking credit for rain and for not doing things that were done in the past.

Emissions from the land sector are also confusing, variable & notoriously hard to measure. No one seems to be worried about the fact that quite a lot of Australia has been catching fire over the last few years either – a trend we are likely to see more of.

Such accounting might make it seem like Australia is on a good path, but the latest release of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions tells the true story.  When you count actual emissions, in the past year Australia only emitted 1.8% (or 9.5Mt CO2) less than we did in 2005.

In the 12 months to March 2022 Australian emitted 526.6Mt CO2. That leaves us a very long way from zero.

Counting land use might help balance the books in a spreadsheet, but will not help us get there in real terms.

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