Energy emissions boom while farmers pay the cost

A new government report released this week proves it is only thanks to bans on land clearing that Australia will meet its greenhouse gas emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol while the energy, transport and industrial sectors have recorded mammoth increases in their emissions since 1990.

Minister for Climate Change, Penny Wong, this week released an inventory of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions between 1990 and 2006 which shows without those changes to land use, the Kyoto target would have been considerably overshot.

The report shows emissions from the agriculture sector increased by 3.8pc between 1990 and 2006, and lists the farm sector as the third biggest emitter after the combined energy sector and industrial processes.

Emissions from the energy sector had increased by 40pc in those 16 years, according to the report, while industrial emissions were up by 17pc.

But it’s the land use emissions which have been slashed in by more than half, down 53.9pc since 1990 and due largely to State restrictions on land clearing, Senator Wong said.

“It is the case that land use has been a significant factor in reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions,” Senator Wong said.

“The fact we have had land clearing regulations introduced and effected at State levels has had substantial benefit in terms of Australia’s emissions profile.

“But it is the case that aspect of abatement, that aspect of a reduction in emissions, is going to be less available to us in the future, that’s why we have to be aware we have work to do as a nation to reduce our emissions into the future.”

Agriculture accounts for about 15.6pc of net national emissions, and the ag sector is the dominant source of methane and nitrous oxide emissions, according to the report.

Livestock emissions were 69.7pc of the sector’s emissions in 2006 and 10.9pc of national emissions, despite declining by 4.7pc during the report period.

Emissions from rice cultivation, agricultural soils, prescribed burns and burning of agricultural residues contribute to the rest of the agricultural emissions.

With the Government’s proposed carbon emissions trading scheme a hot topic in Canberra this week, Senator Wong said the report confirmed the need for action on emissions, despite claims a scheme which included big emitters like transport could push up petrol prices by as much as 50 per cent.

Economist, Professor Ross Garnaut, will release a draft report on an emissions trading scheme for Australia at the end of next week, and later in July the Government will release a green paper outlining options for the scheme, which it wants up and running by 2010.

“While still on track to meet our Kyoto target, it’s clear we have a lot to do when it comes to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions,” Senator Wong said.

“We know climate change is happening. The economically responsible thing to do with it is to introduce a climate emissions scheme.”

She said decisions regarding coverage and what sectors are in and out of the scheme would be made in coming months.

“We understand as a government this is a complex, economic reform. It is a necessary economic reform.

“Climate change is happening, we need to deal with it…and the most responsible way of dealing with it is by introducing a sensible crafted emissions trading scheme.

Senator Wong said she and Minister for Agriculture, Tony Burke, have had several discussions with farm sector leaders about their inclusion in or exclusion from the scheme.

“There are complex issues associated with agriculture and we will continue to consult with them,” Senator Wong said.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.