The Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC, an organisational unit of the US Department of Energy) has released it’s latest figures for Australia’s carbon emissions from fossil fuel consumption. Due to the complexity in collating emissions, the current reporting year is 2005. The figures certainly leave a bitter taste in the mouth.
Already among the highest per capita emitters in the world, Australia’s emissions jumped a whopping 8.3% between 2004 and 2005. But even if you take the lower figure of the national rate of increase over the previous 5 years of the reporting period, it still implies that, excluding land use change (we largely halted land clearance in Queenland a few years ago), Australia’s emissions will be 37% above 1990 levels by 2012.
There is also a worrying discrepancy between the emissions reported by the former Australian Greenhouse Office (now Department of Climate Change) and those estimated by CDIAC. One implication is that we are going to miss our Kyoto reduction target of 8% above 1990 levels (yes, I see the irony of a reduction target that is an increase) by a long way. But it also begs another obvious question – how is an emissions trading scheme going to work effectively if we cannot even be guaranteed that emissions are being validly reported?
Rosslyn Beeby featured this story on the front page of the Canberra Times, 29 August. Below is a snippet, click here to read the full article.
Carbon spike hits Kyoto gas pledge
Australia’s fossil fuel emissions are growing more than four times faster than figures quoted by the Federal Government, placing Australia’s Kyoto target at risk.
Figures published online yesterday by one of the world’s top authorities on greenhouse emissions shows Australia’s total fossil fuel emissions jumped by 8.3 per cent from 93 million tonnes in 2004 to just over 100 million tonnes in 2005.
This includes a 12 per cent rise in carbon dioxide emissions from cement manufacture and from aviation and shipping.
These figures, calculated by the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre in the United States, conflict with Federal Government claims that national fossil fuel emissions rose by only 2 per cent over the same period.
Australia has committed to meeting a target of 108 per cent of its 1990 emissions levels about 599 million tonnes annually by 2012.
But the centre’s figures suggest this cannot be achieved.
They also question the accuracy of data used by the Rudd Government to shape its response to the challenges of climate change.
Australian National University’s climate law and policy centre co-director Andrew Macintosh said, ”Are the federal figures accurate? That’s the million-dollar question, but it does seem a bit odd that the numbers always seem to fall our way.”
The US centre, established more than 25 years ago, includes the World Data Centre for atmospheric trace gases and provides climate change data and analysis for the US Department of Environment.
Its latest figures show global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning have increased by 3.8 per cent, with Australia ranked as one of the world’ top 10 polluters on per capita use of fossil fuels.
The director of the University of Adelaide’s climate change research institute, Professor Barry Brook, said the centre’s figures showed ”rhetoric about Australia being on track to meet its Kyoto target is just greenwash”.
The figures indicated Australia was ”doing nothing effective to stem its emissions” beyond the Government’s claims that land clearance had been halted.
”The increase from 1990 levels is now tracking at 25.8 per cent based on fossil fuel usage.”
He said even a conservative projection based on the US centre’s data suggested that by 2012, Australia fossil fuel emissions could be 37 per cent above 1990 levels.
Co-chairman of international climate change policy think-tank the Global Carbon Project Dr Mike Raupach said it was possible the 8.3 per cent increase was a data anomaly.
”However, it does remind us of Australia’s long-term emission growth over the last two decades, which is around 2 per cent per year and is way, way too high.
The CSIRO’s Mike Raupach and Pep Canadell of the Global Carbon Project have made the same point on a global scale – of spiralling emissions and declinging carbon sinks, exceeding even the worst-case projections of the IPCC, driven largely by the phenomenal growth of industrial activity in China. As Mike points out here, it’s a classic tragedy of the commons, but this time on a planetary scale…