National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, annual, 'unadjusted' emissions, 1989-90 to 2014-15. Graphic: Australia Department of Environment

By Latika Bourke
28 December 2015

(Stock & Land) – Australia's greenhouse gas emissions increased by nearly 1 per cent in 2015, a federal government report quietly released in the lead-up to Christmas showed. The Climate Council said the increase showed Australia urgently needed to transition to renewables and justified calls for a worldwide moratorium on new coal mines.

Australia emitted 549.3 megatonnes (Mt) of carbon dioxide in 2014-15, up 0.8 percent on the year before but down nearly 3 percent on projections. Emissions increases were recorded in the electricity, transport, fugitive emissions, and industrial and power generation sectors, and offset only by a strong decline in agricultural emissions.

Combined with emissions from land use and deforestation the overall increase in emissions on the previous year was 1.3 percent.

The Coalition pledged at the Paris climate talks, where it was agreed to restrict warming to no more than 1.5 degrees, to reduce Australia's emissions by 26-28 per cent by 2030.

The National Greenhouse Gas Inventory said Australia's annual emissions in 2014-15 were at the second lowest level ever recorded and emissions per capita and emissions intensity were at their lowest levels in a quarter of a century.

But Professor Will Steffen from the Climate Council said the rise in overall emissions showed the government had to wean the economy off coal and fast if it wanted to make good on its promises made in Paris.

"The atmosphere doesn't care about emissions intensity. What matters is what we put into the atmosphere and if we're putting more into the atmosphere than the year before then we're heading in the wrong direction," he said. "We've got to drop emissions fast. We've got to get out of fossil fuels very quickly, coal first – there can be no new coal mines anywhere in the world."

The federal member for the Queensland electorate of Dawson, George Christensen, rejected Professor Steffen's claims, saying the coal exported by Adani's mine and port would add to India's emissions and not Australia's.

"Abbot Point adds nothing to Australia's carbon dioxide emissions. To state the bleeding obvious, the coal is being exported out of Abbot point coal terminal it's not being burnt at Abbot Point, it's being burnt by another country – India," Mr Christensen said.

"We're not responsible for Australian goods that are exported overseas and that are then used to produce carbon dioxide emissions."

Professor Steffen responded: "It's one atmosphere, one planet, one climate, it doesn't matter where the emissions come from, they add to climate change."

Australia's carbon emissions jump in 2015

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