Australia's emissions on the rise

April 18, 2012 at 1:38 PM
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CANBERRA, Australia, April 18 (UPI) -- Australia emitted 546 million tons more greenhouse gas emissions in 2011 than in 2010, the government says in its report for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

While that represents a 0.6 percent increase compared to 2010 figures, it is less than the peak in 2008, the National Greenhouse Accounts report, released Tuesday, states.

By contrast, the United States, in its report, said it had a 3.2 percent rise in emissions.

Australia's increase in emissions, however, is within the country's commitment under the Kyoto Protocol, in which an increase of up to 108 percent of greenhouse gas output in 1990 is acceptable. Based on the new report, 2011's level of emissions is 104 percent of the 1990 level.

Under Australia's carbon pricing scheme, which goes into effect in July, 500 of Australia's top polluting companies will pay $24 for each ton of carbon they emit.

Australian Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said the rise in emissions indicated in the report was in line with government predictions but underscores the need for a carbon price to boost investment in renewable energy.

''This reflects the long-term trend of growth in Australia's greenhouse gas emissions since 1990 and highlights the need for action on climate change,'' Combet said in a statement.

Kevin Parton, from the School of Management and Marketing at Charles Sturt University, and a strategic professor in the Institute for Land, Water and Society said the government's carbon pricing scheme will likely help to contain Australia's growth in emissions. But unless there's a dramatic drop in economic activity for the rest of this year, he said, a reduction in emissions for 2012 isn't likely.

"To reduce Australia's carbon emissions significantly will need a change in the way the economy works and a transition, as soon as possible, to a low carbon technology," Parton told Australia's The Conversation.

Noting that power generating is the sector with the highest emissions, Parton said there is not great optimism about the rate of progress in reducing emissions.

"Coal will be king for many years to come," he said.

Australia, the world's largest exporter of coal and iron ore, relies on coal to generate about 80 percent of its electricity.

'The primary driver for the increase in emissions is fugitive emissions from coalmines, specifically from increased black-coal production," the report states.

Australia aims to cut the country's emissions by 5 percent from year 2000 levels by 2020, and bring emissions down 80 percent by 2050.

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