Australia’s climate change policies will lead greenhouse gas emissions to balloon out of control in the next few years, the federal government says in an annual report to the United Nations.
Instead of the 5 to 25 per cent cut being offered by the government, the nation would pump out 24 per cent more carbon dioxide by 2020, the Climate Change Minister, Greg Combet, said, using the data to make the case again for a price on carbon.
But NSW appears to be bucking the national trend, recording a steep fall in coal-fired power generation last year in a separate report by The Climate Group. Emissions from coal-fired power fell just over 10 per cent in the state last year, from 2009 levels, even though the population and economy grew. Most of the slack was taken up by gas, hydro and wind power.
Mr Combet said the national emissions data, to be published today, show that Australia needs to cut at least 160 million tonnes of greenhouse gases from its ledger on an annual basis before 2020 to make even its minimum 5 per cent target.
“Clearly more needs to be done, and that’s why we need a carbon price soon,” he said in a statement. “While there is a warning in this report, it is important to remember that it is not too late for us to act.”
The government’s projections take into account the renewable energy target, which aims to generate one fifth of electricity from non-fossil sources by 2020, and some energy efficiency measures, but no future emissions trading scheme.
“At some point the government will have to confront the reality that its energy policy and climate policy are on a collision course, with ever-growing investment in coal, gas and coal-seam gas undermining any moves to turn our economy around,” the Greens senator Christine Milne said.
In NSW the decline in coal use led to 5.3 million fewer tonnes worth of emissions from coal than in 2009, said The Climate Group, which monitors weekly emissions from energy use.
The group’s global energy director, Rupert Posner, said the drop in NSW reflected embryonic moves away from coal as the dominant power source, and cuts in energy demand through a relatively mild summer.
Emissions from coal in NSW fell 10.02 per cent, or about 6.26 million tonnes, compared with the previous year.
Power industry sources said wind generation was starting to make small inroads into peak power usage, and higher rates of home insulation were beginning to cut demand for electricity for heating and cooling. The figure is expected to fluctuate year-on-year, though, and does not necessarily represent a sustained, long-term decline in coal use.
More of the state’s power was also sourced from interstate last year, which contributed to the fact that Queensland and Victoria recorded only modest emissions cuts of 0.7 per cent in their energy sectors.
”These sorts of figures are still within the ballpark of the sort of cuts we need to achieve our targets,” Mr Posner said.
”It’s quite possible that we could see falls like this for another year or two, but after that it’s not going to happen without some kind of policy that brings a price signal.”
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