Emissions trends


As a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol (ratified in 2007), Australia is committed to limiting increases in net GHG emissions to 108% of its 1990 levels by 2008–2012 (the ‘Kyoto commitment period’). As reported in 2010 in its Fifth national communication on climate change (under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change),42 Australia remains on track to meet this commitment, largely due to a major reduction in emissions associated with LULUCF (80% from 1990 to 2008) and, more particularly, to less land clearing over the same period (Figure 3.13).42

In contrast, from 1990 to 2009, emissions (excluding LULUCF) grew by 30.5% (Figure 3.14). The largest increase was in the stationary energy sector, which includes emissions from fuel consumption for electricity generation; fuels consumed in the manufacturing, construction and commercial sectors; and other sources such as domestic heating. This sector grew by 51%, driven by a mix of factors, notably rising population and household incomes, and growth in demand for energy associated with substantial increases in the export of resources. In the same period, transport grew by 35% in response to increases in the number of vehicles. Fugitive emissions (which typically result from leaks during the production, processing, transport, storage and distribution of raw fossil fuels) increased by 23%, chiefly because of increased emissions from coal mines. Emissions due to industrial processes rose by 21%, principally associated with increased production of HFCs as substitutes for ozone depleting CFCs, and substantial (220%) growth in emissions from the chemical industry.39,4243

The waste and agricultural sectors are the only ones to have recorded a decline in emissions from 1990 to 2009 (22% and 2%, respectively). In the waste sector, this reflected the increasing capture of methane from landfill in response to a combination of regulatory pressure and commercial gain (through use of the emissions as a source of energy). In agriculture, increases in emissions during the 1990s due to rising fertiliser use and savanna burning have been reversed since 2002, reflecting reduced fertiliser use and a significant drop in crop and animal production due to drought.39,4243

Since 2000, Australia’s emissions of GHGs (excluding LULUCF) have grown by an average of 1.1% per year. This compares with average annual growth of 1.9% from 1990 to 2000. The difference is principally attributable to a slower rate of growth of emissions from stationary sources and transport, as well as a decrease in emissions from agriculture. Like most OECD countries, Australia experienced a reduction in annual GHG emissions during the global financial crisis. However, the reduction was only marginal, with emissions (excluding LULUCF) falling from 551 MtCO2-e in 2008 to 546 MtCO2-e in 2009—a fall of 0.9%.39 By comparison, the United States and the European Union experienced reductions in emissions growth of approximately 7% during the same timeframe.44

This marginal decline in Australia’s emissions is only a minor and temporary divergence from the continuing longer term growth trend (Figure 3.15).

Under policy settings applying before the release of the Australian Government’s Securing a Clean Energy Future plan, Australia’s emissions were projected to grow by some 113 MtCO2-e (19.6%) from 2010 to 2020. This would have brought Australia’s annual emissions (including LULUCF) to 690 MtCO2-e in 2020, an increase of 23% from 2000 levels. The projected growth was mainly due to anticipated emissions from the extraction and processing of energy resources to meet expected continued strong export demand. This contrasted with previous decades, when most emissions growth related to electricity generation. From 2010 to 2020, emissions from electricity generation were projected to grow much more slowly than in the past, increasing by only 6% (12 MtCO2-e). This reflected the factoring into the projection of a significant increase in the use of renewable energy sources for generation of electricity, in response to the Renewable Energy Target. The target, which was established by the Australian Government in 2009, aims to ensure that 20% of Australia’s electricity supply comes from renewable sources by 2020.46 The Securing a Clean Energy Future plan aims to achieve Australia’s unconditional emissions reduction target—a reduction of 5% on 2000 levels by 2020. This will require abatement of at least 159 MtCO2-e (23%) in 2020.47(See Section 2.3.2 for details of the plan.)

(2011). Climate: Emissions trends. In: Australia state of the environment 2011, Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra, https://soe.environment.gov.au/theme/climate/topic/emissions-trends, DOI 10.4226/94/58b65c70bc372