Emissions claims get third-degree

Despite some improvement in electricity sector emissions, new research from The Australia Institute shows there is no doubt that national greenhouse gas emissions are in fact climbing, confirming a 26% emissions reduction target for the electricity sector is not high enough.

The Australia Institute Climate & Energy Program has released the December National Energy Emissions Audit, authored by renowned energy expert Dr Hugh Saddler, covering emissions in the electricity sector over the previous month of November.

Key findings:

  • Electricity sector emissions are trending downwards, however, these reductions have been swamped by rises in emissions in transport (23% since 2005), stationary energy (21% since 2005), and fugitive energy (41% since 2005).
  • Renewable energy generation (currently at record levels of 22.9%) may actually be higher than reported by AEMO, as their calculations do not include the significant amount of landfill gas and rooftop solar energy – both growing sectors.
  • The bulk of new wind and solar energy coming online is predominantly displacing gas generation, rather than coal.

“There is no doubt that national greenhouse gas emissions are climbing, and have been since the removal of the carbon price,” says Dr Hugh Saddler, author of the report.

“While it is good to see that electricity sector emissions are reducing, these have been almost completely offset by increasing emissions in all other sectors. The government can, and should, do more – 26% target in the electricity sector is simply not high enough.

“If the sector is indeed going to reach their 26% target 8 years ahead of schedule – as claimed by Minster for Energy Angus Taylor this week – electricity clearly has the ability to reduce emissions more effectively and at lower cost than in other sectors, such as agriculture, where abatement options are fewer and more costly, and therefore should carry more of the emissions reduction load with a higher target.

“We are consistently seeing that renewables are growing in popularity and are more cost effective and reliable than building new coal power. The duplicity in the government’s attitude toward emissions reduction, and overt boosterism of the fossil fuel industry, is not doing Australians any favours.

“If the government is serious about tackling Australia’s rising greenhouse gas emissions, transitioning away from coal-fired power should be of the utmost priority.

“Emissions reductions would be stronger if the renewables now joining the grid were displacing coal generation, instead they are displacing gas – raising serious uncertainties about the role that gas could or will play in the transition to a zero-emission electricity system.”

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