Australia’s emissions rise again in 2017, putting Paris targets in doubt | Environment

Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2017 were again the highest on record when unreliable data from sectors including land clearing and forestry are excluded, according to consultants NDEVR Environmental.

Even including land clearing, overall emissions show a continued rising trend, which began in about 2011, putting Australia’s commitment under the Paris agreement further out of reach.

The rising greenhouse gas pollution comes despite continued decline in emissions from the electricity sector, following increased renewable energy generation and the closure of Australia’s dirtiest coal power station, Hazelwood.

NDEVR replicates the federal government’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory (NGGI) quarterly reports, but releases them months ahead of the official data. Previous NDEVR reports’ figures have been within 1% of the official figures when they are eventually released.

The latest NDEVR figures include the last three months of 2017, allowing a comparison of calendar-year figures since records began in 2002, revealing 2017 had the highest emissions on record, when those from land-use change are excluded.

Australia’s emissions: how we are tracking

Even including the unreliable land-use figures, overall emissions continued their overall upward trend, taking Australia further from the commitments it made in Paris to help keep global warming under 2C. It is even making its current target (a 26-28% cut below 2005 levels by 2030), which experts agree is not yet strong enough to comply with the Paris agreement, seem increasingly out of reach.

In 2017, Australia’s total emissions from all sectors excluding land-use change came to 556.11m tonnes of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gases, according to NDEVR’s projections. That surpassed the last record, set in just 2016, by 7.21m tonnes.

Overall emissions including land-use change – which involves activities such as land clearing and forestry – were the highest since 2011, indicating a clear upward trend since that time, reversing years of declining emissions starting in 2007.

Emissions from the electricity sector in the last three months of 2017 were the lowest they’ve been in the data set, going back to 2001. And in the full year, they were the second lowest, pipped only by 2013.

Where are Australia’s quarterly emissions coming from?

But that reduction was overwhelmed by increases in other sectors. Emissions from transport were at a record high in the last three months of 2017, continuing a steady rise since the records began in 2001. Fugitive emissions, which include emissions from the production, processing, transport, storage, transmission and distribution of fossil fuels, were also projected to be the highest on record.

Stationary energy, which includes energy produced for industrial processes such as the growing LNG industry, was also projected to be at the equal highest on record, matching the previous quarter from July to September 2017.