The Morrison government’s claims that Australia has done more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than other countries have been challenged by an analysis that found it has regressed compared to similar countries over the past 15 years.
Energy analyst Dr. Hugh Saddler ranked the performance of 23 OECD countries and Russia on eight climate measures, including the share of electricity from non-fossil fuels, per capita emissions from transportation, and the overall intensity of emissions from each. economy.
It found Australia ranked 20th or worse in seven of the eight categories. In relative terms, it had not improved in any category since 2005 and had fallen back compared to other developed countries in four.
Saddler, an honorary associate professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University, said his research, published by the Australian Institute’s progressive think tank, showed the country was “lagging behind” among developed countries. in the transformation of its economy. .
He contrasted this with Morrison’s claim, made before a virtual climate summit hosted by the US in April, that Australia’s record for reducing emissions was better than many of the other major countries that attended the event. event.
“Despite the last decade of growth in solar and wind power, fossil fuels still dominate Australia’s energy sector and its rate of electrification – that is, coal, oil and gas for power – is one of the worst in the OECD, “Saddler said. .
The emissions analysis precedes the publication on Monday night of a landmark report by the world’s leading climate scientists that will assess the state of the global climate. The sixth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a comprehensive review of the world’s knowledge about the climate crisis and how rapidly human actions are altering the planet.
Saddler said his investigation showed that the government’s “so-called economic gas recovery”, under which the Coalition has committed hundreds of millions of dollars to fossil fuel energy and the opening of new gas basins, was “absolutely contrary to Australia’s energy needs, system transition ”.
“Over the past 15 years, Australia has squandered its golden opportunity to delink its energy sector from fossil fuels, unlike many other OECD countries,” he said. “As a result, Australians are left with highly polluting and inefficient energy, heating, housing and transportation. This also increases our cost of living and reduces our energy productivity. “
The government defends its performance on climate by arguing that Australia’s drop in emissions since 2005, around 20%, according to the most recent national accounts, is better than many comparable counties.
Morrison and other government MPs have repeatedly cited the figure when asked why Australia’s emissions reduction target for 2030 is only half that set by the United States and the European Union, and less than half that promised by Great Britain. Brittany. They say Australia has a history of “exceeding” emissions targets.
But Saddler’s research supports previous analysis that suggests this claim is misleading.
It found that all of Australia’s emission reductions since 2005 have been due to agricultural activities, mainly due to a large drop in the amount of “land clearing”. In basic terms, the annual destruction of forests and other ecosystems for agriculture and wood harvesting decreased during the decade from 2007 to 2017; it still occurs, but at a slower rate.
Saddler’s report said that if this change in the way land was used was excluded from national emissions accounts, Australia’s emissions had increased by 7% since 2005.
He said it was a key point, and often overlooked, when comparing Australia’s emissions with those of other countries.
“Large one-off reductions in land clearing are in no way evidence of a trend towards decarbonization of the Australian economy,” the report said.
“For the purposes of international comparison, it is important to note that most other developed countries do not have the ability to benefit from large reductions in land clearance for the simple reason that they cleared most of their land centuries ago.”
Saddler excluded changes in land use by choosing indicators that measured changes in energy consumption and emissions. They included emissions from energy combustion, energy consumption, energy productivity (the amount of economic production for each unit of energy consumed), the share of non-fossil fuels in electricity, and emissions from transportation.
The findings included:
Australia had the second most emission-intensive energy system after Poland, a large producer of coal.
It achieved the second smallest increase in energy productivity in 15 years, only ahead of Portugal. This is despite the federal and state energy ministers. launch of a national energy productivity plan in 2015.
It has significantly increased its share of wind and solar power, but other countries have moved faster: it went from 13th (in 2005) to 14th (in 2019) in a ranking of the share of electricity from new power generation renewable.
It was one of only three countries to have increased total energy combustion emissions.
Before Covid-19, it had the third highest per capita transportation emissions, behind the US and Canada. Both North American countries reduced per capita transport emissions faster between 2005 and 2019 than Australia.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism