A new report has shown a year on year rise in greenhouse gas emissions in eastern Australia that is unevenly distributed. While both Victoria and Queensland recorded a rise in greenhouse gas emissions, NSW recorded a fall. The Climate Group (headquartered in London but also based in the US, Brussels, Beijing and Melbourne) has tracked greenhouse emissions from energy use in NSW, Victoria and Queensland on a weekly basis for two years. The results in their 2008 annual report (pdf) show a 3.6 million tonne increase in emissions in the three Eastern Australian mainland states which represents a 1.3 percent increase on 2007. However the increase was not uniform; Victoria and Queensland emissions rose 2.2 and 2.0 million tonnes respectively, while in NSW emissions fell by 0.5 million tonnes.
The results also showed a marked increase in emissions across all states since 2000. In 2008 the NSW Indicator was 25 per cent higher than its 2000 emission, the Victorian Indicator was 6 per cent higher and the Queensland Indicator was 34 per cent higher. The Climate Group said the 2008 figures would have been worse but for high petrol prices most of the year. Petrol sales decreased by 9 per cent in NSW, 7 per cent in Queensland and 2 per cent in Victoria though there was a marked increase in diesel use in all three states.
The Climate Group report said the discrepancies between the states were due to economic growth and population increases in Queensland and Victoria that were not matched by NSW. Most of the increase in emissions in the two offender states was from coal-fired generators. The Climate Group’s Australian director Robert Posner issued a media release yesterday which said the results demonstrated the reliance on coal for electricity is Australia’s biggest greenhouse issue. “We need to change this pretty quickly if we want to cut greenhouse emissions,” he said.
Posner said the results should be a wake-up call. He said action was needed now if Australia is to reduce greenhouse pollution. “The window of opportunity open to us to prevent dangerous climate change is becoming smaller but there are lots of things that people can do immediately to start making a difference,” he said. This call is unlikely to be heeded in Victoria where the government authorised a new $750m coal-fired power plant in the Latrobe Valley last year.
Predictably, the Victorian Government has come out fighting against the report's recommendations. State environment minister Gavin Jennings described the results as “mischievous” while Government spokesman Stephen Moynihan claimed emissions improvements had been made on a per capita basis. He told The Age that "Victoria's per capita energy-related emissions have fallen by 5.4 per cent from 2000 to 2008.”
Meanwhile reaction was more muted in Queensland, the other offender state. The Brisbane Courier-Mail reported the Climate Group’s figure of Queensland’s two million tonne surge in emissions but did not note any response from the local state government. However, the local Greens released a statement saying the increase “was proof of the utter failure of the Labor government to cope with the challenge of climate change.” Given that the 2008 Queensland budget promised over $600m in subsidies to the local coal industry, it is difficult to disagree with their assessment.