Transport Emissions Returning to Pre-Covid Highs

New research from the Australia Institute’s Climate & Energy Program shows that while the COVID pandemic provided a brief respite from some fossil fuel emissions, in sectors like transport—which lacks any climate-abatement policy—emissions are quickly rising back to pre-pandemic heights. The Australia Institute’s analysis indicates that returning to business as usual post-pandemic will not be enough to meet Australia’s climate targets, instead, strong and comprehensive national climate policy is needed.

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

Key Points:

  • 2020 shows a sharp fall in emissions from petroleum which was caused by Covid-19 reducing transport use, however as COVID health restrictions have eased and Australia returns somewhat to business as usual, these emissions reductions are quickly reversing
  • Victoria had the largest reduction in road transport emissions, dropping 2.4 Mt in the six months from April to September 2020, compared with the same six months in 2019.
  • Up to June 2020, the economic slowdown reduced annual petroleum emissions by about 5.4 Mt CO2-e below trend, with a further reduction of about 4.2 Mt CO2-e from July to September 2020 – mostly from aviation fuels, petrol and auto LPG.

“When it comes to energy consumption, the largest impact of the pandemic and subsequent economic slowdown has fallen on petroleum products, reflected by a significant drop in emissions from the transport sector,” said Dr Hugh Saddler, author of The Australia Institute’s National Energy Emissions Audit.

“While major impacts on aviation fuel emissions continue, the massive reduction in fossil fuels used by passenger and light commercial motor vehicles during the pandemic is quickly reversing. Changed economic conditions have had no significant effect on consumption of either electricity or gas, even with an economic slow-down as prolonged as that in Victoria.” 

“It should not take a national crisis to reduce emissions in the transport sector when there are numerous available abatement opportunities in transport. If anything, this analysis demonstrates what could be, if Australia were to transition away from fossil fuelled transport by implementing an electric vehicle policy, similar to those in Nordic Countries,” said Richie Merzian, Climate & Energy Program Director at The Australia Institute.

“We have now seen first-hand the impact actions, like reducing the number of fossil fuelled cars on the road, can have on national emissions. The problem and solutions are clear, now, we just need our Governments to put in the work.

“Australians do not want to come out of one crisis, only to sit idly by as another hits.”

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