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New analysis: Australia doing less than other countries on climate

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The Australia Institute, Media Release, 24 May 2021

New research from the Australia Institute reveals that, contrary to claims by the Australian Government of falling emissions, Australia’s national emissions (excluding land use) have risen by 7 per cent from 2005.

At President Biden’s Leaders Climate Summit, the Australian Government claimed that it has reduced its emissions by 19 per cent, which is ‘more than other similar economies’. However, new analysis shows Australia is one of the only developed countries in the world whose emissions have increased since 2005 and whose emissions trends are among the worst in the developed world.

The Prime Minister’s claim of a 19% reduction is misleading and relies on tricky accounting to conceal a lack of progress in transitioning to a low carbon economy.

The Australia Institute chart
Change in the net emissions of major developed economies relative to 2005 (excluding LULUCF and Agriculture emissions). Source: The Australia Institute.

Key Findings:

  • Australia’s economy is not decarbonising and since 2005, Australia’s emissions (excluding land use) have increased whereas the United States, United Kingdom and European Union have all decreased their emissions (see Figure1).
  • The Australian Government’s claim that emissions have declined 19 per cent is related to factors outside of climate policy including historical changes in deforestation, the impact caused by the 2017–2019 drought and the current pandemic.
  • When land use including agriculture are excluded from analysis, Australia’s emissions have risen by 7 per cent from 2005–2018 or approximately 0.5 per cent per annum.
  • Australia has a long history of manipulating greenhouse accounting rules including the Kyoto Protocol negotiations to include changes to land use in the base year, knowing land use change would give it a major advantage and again in the Paris Agreement when Australia moved its base year to 2005 — another high year for land clearing — and was immediately able to take credit for reductions that had already happened.

“New Australia Institute research shows that the government’s claims Australia is on track to beat its Paris target and is doing more to reduce emissions than other countries do not stack up,” said Richie Merzian, climate & energy director at the Australia Institute.

“The Australian government is taking credit for changes in the land sector, that have not been impacted by any federal climate policy. By contrast, key allies like the United Kingdom and United States have decreased their net emissions and are exercising real credible climate leadership.

“The harsh truth is that the Australian economy has not decarbonised over the last 15 years. This might explain why the Australian Government has been so reluctant to commit to a net zero target when the economy is headed in the wrong direction.

“The Australian Government is shirking its responsibility to decarbonise, and this unfair stance will only put more pressure, and cause more tension, with other countries that will be forced to further reduce their emissions to keep the climate at a safe level.

“In the face of increased scrutiny and pressure, and absence of any real climate policy, the Australian Government is increasingly relying on accounting tricks that superficially demonstrate a solid performance on climate action.”

For the full report, click here.
Related stories: Why so negative, Australia Institute?, The Australia Institute responds to criticism from the National Farmers’ Federation


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