The Federal Government released the March 2020 Quarterly Update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory yesterday.

Preliminary estimates indicate that coronavirus related restrictions have had a significant impact on emissions.

It is estimated that emissions in the June quarter 2020 were around eight per cent or 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2-e or million tonnes) lower than a year earlier.

In 2019-20, emissions are estimated to be as low as 518 million tonnes, their lowest level since 1998.

The impact has been most marked in the transport sector, with 26.7 per cent less petrol and 79.0 per cent less jet fuel consumed in the June quarter 2020. Emissions from consumption of liquid fuels (petrol, diesel and jet fuel) were 17.9 per cent lower than in the June quarter 2019.

Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor, said that unsustainable restrictions on Australians’ livelihoods and freedom to travel has substantially reduced emissions.

“With the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions being felt across the economy, emissions have reduced as expected,” Taylor said.

In the year to March 2020, emissions fell 1.4 per cent (7.7 Mt CO2-e) to 528.7 million tonnes.

This is 14.3 per cent below 2005 levels (the baseline year for Australia’s 2030 Paris target). When the inventory is adjusted by excluding emissions generated by exports, emissions have fallen 32 per cent on 2005 levels.

Taylor said this substantial fall reflects the continuing decarbonisation of Australia’s domestic economy.

Emissions from exports rose 1.9 per cent (3.9 Mt CO2-e) to 38.6 per cent of total emissions. The increase mainly reflects an 11 per cent increase in LNG exports to 79 million tonnes in the year to March 2020 on the year to March 2019.

Emissions from electricity continued their long term structural decline, down 4.2 per cent (7.6 Mt CO2-e) in the year to March 2020.

Final emissions data for the June quarter 2020 and the 2019-20 financial year will be published in late November 2020.

Climate Council head of research, Dr Martin Rice, said the drop is temporary and built upon the suffering of Australians and the economy. 

"To reduce our emissions in the long-term, we need credible climate policy and clean jobs,” Dr Rice said.

“The latest government data also indicates there’s been a record roll-out of renewable energy which has reduced emissions in the electricity sector.”

Climate Council senior researcher, Tim Baxter, said emissions linked to Australia’s growing liquified natural gas (LNG) exports have cancelled out any positive progress that has been made in recent months.

“Gas is a fossil fuel, driving climate change, and right now Australia is the largest exporter of LNG in the world,” Baxter said.

The Climate Council’s recently released Clean Jobs Plan shows how Australia can create 76,000 jobs in the short term, while also tackling long-term problems like climate change. 


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