Rebounding Transport & Agriculture Sectors will Cause Emissions to Soar

As Covid travel restrictions ease and Australia’s agriculture sector rebounds from years of crippling drought, new research from the Australia Institute Climate & Energy Program shows that the recoveries of the Transport and Agriculture sectors will cause Australia’s emissions rise significantly—reversing emissions reductions made in 2020 and setting Australia’s emissions back to pre-2018 heights.

The Australia Institute Climate & Energy Program has released their latest National Energy Emissions Audit, analysing the electricity sector over the previous months.

Key Points:

  • Emissions for 2020 are estimated to have been 4.5% lower than in 2018, when the last complete National Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory was published;
    • The major source of this emissions reduction is electricity generation—and caused almost entirely by a decrease in coal fired generation, in both relative and absolute terms.
    • From September 2019 to November 2020, annual New South Wales coal generation fell by 4.3 TWh, representing a drop of just under 8%; equivalent figures for Queensland coal generation are 3.6 TWh, also equal to just under 8% drop.
    • Total electricity generation in the National Electricity Market (NEM) continues to fall, and in November 2020 fell to a level 9.6% below the historic maximum in 2008.
  • However, the transport and agriculture sectors are expected to create a significant rise in emissions;
    • With the end of lock-downs and domestic travel restrictions, transport emissions arising from road transport and domestic aviation are almost certain to revert to their previous trend of steady emissions growth.
    • In 2018, 78% of all agricultural emissions arose from livestock and cropping activities and the Australian national herd and flock, at levels similar to the 1990s, is expected rebound to pre-2018 levels as drought conditions improve, and their related emissions will rebound too.

“The rebound of the transport sector from Covid-19, and eased drought conditions, are likely to reverse much of the emissions reductions seen over the past few years – reductions achieved not through climate policy, but instead as the result of external circumstances,” said Dr Hugh Saddler, author of the Australia Institute’s National Energy Emissions Audit.

“The agriculture sector is re-stocking after severe drought and would benefit from the government’s setting a long-term climate target, in line with the recommendation from the National Farmers Federation of net zero by 2050.

“Strong emission reduction targets across the economy would also benefit the agriculture sector, which can take advantage of carbon crediting opportunities.”

“Emissions from the transport and agriculture sector are almost equal to electricity, and yet there are no policies or targets to help transition the sectors to a low-carbon future” said Richie Merzian, director of the Australia Institute Climate & Energy Program.

“2021 is the first year of operation of the Paris Agreement and there a real opportunity for the federal government to set the country on course to net zero emissions by 2050 if not sooner, but this requires sector level plans for transport and agriculture. ”

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