Paul Osborne and Georgie Moore
(Australian Associated Press)
Australia should be cutting its emissions 21 times faster than at present if it is to play a key role in addressing climate change, the Climate Council says.
New national data shows emissions for the 12 months to March were 494.2 million tonnes, down 27.8 million tonnes, or 5.3 per cent, relative to a year earlier.
The figure is 20.8 per cent below 2005 levels, the baseline year for Australia’s Paris target, and the lowest level since records began in 1990.
Declines in the transport sector and electricity emissions, down 13.1 million and 9.7 million tonnes respectively, were the largest contributors as COVID-19 reduced air and road travel and more renewable energy came online.
In the year to June, emissions from the national electricity market fell 4.6 per cent to a new record low.
Climate Council senior researcher Tim Baxter said being on track to cut emissions by one third of one per cent a year over the next decade was a “snail’s pace”.
“For Australia to play its part, the Climate Council says it should be aiming for a 75 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2030,” Mr Baxter said.
“This would equate to emissions cuts occurring 21 times faster than what the federal government is managing.”
Energy Minister Angus Taylor said the government’s approach was the right one, given that the emissions cuts had come at the same time as economic growth.
“While there is still work to be done, this data shows the government’s comprehensive suite of policies to meet its emissions reduction commitments, encourage innovation and back new and emerging low emissions technologies are working,” Mr Taylor said.
There had also been a decline in industrial emissions over the past year.
A 1.5 per cent drop in emissions from stationary energy reflected a small decline in LNG exports.
Fugitive emissions were also down 8.3 per cent. This was in part due to Western Australia’s Gorgon carbon capture and storage project and a fall in coal production.
Australia remains under pressure from global leaders, and the business and environmental lobby, to commit to net zero emissions by 2050.
But Prime Minister Scott Morrison has only committed so far to achieving this target “as soon as possible”.
The government continues to tout it’s on track to overshoot its 2030 Paris target of cuts between 26 and 28 per cent.
It has flagged a new forecast on progress to be published later in the year.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese said climate would be a key issue at the next election, pledging support for cheaper electric vehicles, community batteries and a national transmission plan to stabilise the grid.
The next major stocktake on global climate action will occur at the COP26 summit in Glasgow in November.