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The latest National Greenhouse Gas Inventory data shows a 4.4 per cent decline in emissions in the year to September 2020.

Emissions were 510.1 million tonnes – 4.4 per cent or 23.3 million tonnes lower than in 2019. Minister for Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor, said this is the lowest level since 1995.

“Australia’s emissions are now 19.0 per cent below 2005 levels, the baseline year for our 2030 Paris Agreement target,” he said.

Taylor said these results reflect significant long-term structural declines in emissions from the electricity and agriculture sectors, and a temporary decline in emissions from agriculture (due to the drought) and transport (due to coronavirus restrictions).

He said in the year to December 2020, emissions in the national electricity market fell 5.6 per cent to a new record low. 

“The continuing structural decline in emissions from electricity is driven by Australia’s world leading deployment of solar and wind,” he said.

“Since 2017, Australia has invested $35 billion in renewables and we are continuing to deploy new solar and wind 10 times faster than the global per person average.”

The production of exports for overseas markets generates 38.6 per cent of Australia’s total emissions.

Climate Council senior researcher, Tim Baxter, said the federal government can take zero credit for these figures.

Baxter said the states and territories have once again done the heavy lifting on reducing Australia’s emissions while the federal government continues to confuse a pandemic for climate action. 

“COVID-19 has impacted our economy and transport sector dramatically, while emissions reductions in the electricity sector are due to state and territory-led wind and solar projects coming online in recent months,” he said.

“Every state and territory has a net zero emissions target, and is embracing clean, affordable renewable energy to get there. The federal government should be supporting this change instead of planning to spend billions of public dollars on unnecessary gas projects.”

Most of Australia’s major trading partners have committed to a net zero emissions target by 2050 with countries like Japan and the European Union considering carbon tariffs on imports from high-emitting nations like Australia. 

Baxter said the federal government cannot rely on a pandemic to keep its emissions suppressed.

“We need a national commitment to reaching net zero emissions by 2040 at the latest,” he said.

The federal government has released a Technology Investment Roadmap which identifies low emissions technologies. The government is investing $18 billion over the next 10 years to leverage $70 billion of investment in these technologies.

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