The latest National Energy Emissions Audit reveals emissions remain high and energy productivity low

Rising emissions

Poor energy productivity is a major cause of both rising emissions and energy costs and signal that Australia is not on track to meet the aims of the National Energy Productivity Plan. According to the latest National Energy Emissions Audit, Australia’s fossil fuel emissions are rising, unlike the trend in most other OECD countries, and the major culprits are transport, manufacturing, mining, and petroleum and gas, which have all risen since 2005.

The Australia Institute Climate & Energy Program reported the only exception to rising emissions is electricity generation, which has seen reduced emissions since 2009.

“Australian’s are paying more money for less efficient, less reliable energy and producing more emissions than most of our OECD counterparts,” says Dr Hugh Saddler, author of the report.

“If this government is truly focused on lowering electricity prices for everyday Australians, or serious about meeting our Paris target, energy productivity should be of highest-priority.

“The NEPP has existed since 2015, yet most of its 34 conditions are still not being met by government—this is clearly being reflected as emissions continue to rise and Australian’s endure ever increasing electricity costs."

Dr Saddler says simple productivity measures put forward in the NEPP, such as improving light vehicle efficiency through fuel efficiency standards or an electric vehicle strategy, would help address both issues: reducing out-of-pocket costs for consumers and curbing the emissions output from one of Australia’s worst-polluting industries.

“Proper, independent regulation of new buildings to ensure that they all meet minimum energy efficiency performance standards could also make an important contribution,” he said.

“Phasing out Australia’s old and unreliable coal fleet for highly efficient and cost-effective renewables, is another measure that has been shown to decrease emissions and increase productivity.”

Staying on coal, it appears the Coalition government plans to do just that.

With an eye on the rear vision mirror Emissions Reductions Minister Angus Taylor this week condemned Queensland's plans to close the 700 MW Callide B coal-fired power station in 2028, a decade earlier than planned, warning it could have "dire consequences".

"The federal government has been clear: we need to keep existing reliable generation in the market, or see like-for-like replacement,” said Taylor who is critical of state renewable energy targets that facilitate development of solar and wind while “squeezing out more reliable coal- and gas-fired power stations”.

Let’s step back a couple of weeks to the UN Climate Action Forum that Prime Minister Scott Morrison managed to dodge. But later, speaking at the UN General Assembly, he defended Australia’s dismal climate record and rising greenhouse gas emissions.

His comments sparked widespread incredulity, among the commentators

Bill Hare, chief executive of Climate Analytics.

“Diplomatic officials from countries that I speak with see Australia as a denialist government,” said the respected adviser to countries at climate talks. “It’s just accepted that’s what it is. It is seen as doing its own promotion of coal and natural gas against the science.”

Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd joined the conversation stating “When you have a prime minister of the country not stepping up to the plate, addressing the world’s forum, and indicating what Australia’s future carbon reduction commitments will be, it sends a very clear message to the Australian domestic community and the international community that the Australian government is just not serious.”

Richie Merzian who was a climate diplomat and now works alongside Hugh Saddler at The Australia Institute remarked that Australia is “greenwashing” by using accounting tricks to meet targets, while as TAI data reveals, emissions are  increasing year on year.

The Climate Council’s Dr Martin Rice said the PM “tried to defend the Federal Government’s dismal record on climate action by cherry-picking statistics, downplaying Australia’s significant contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions”.

“The Australian Government has been openly mocked on the world stage for promoting ‘coal and gas against the science,” he said.

Others have said Australia with its support for new coalmines is regarded a “self-interested laggard”.