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Nov 18, 2015

Three cheers for our failing economy!

Greg Hunt has said Australia has met its emissions target already. The only problem is that we have met it because our economy is circling the drain ...

Environment Minister Greg Hunt has suggested Australia is already beating its 2020 emissions reduction target, simply because the economy is weak.

Australia has set a 2020 target for reducing carbon dioxide emissions to 5% below 2000 levels, or reducing emissions from Australia to no more than 533 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

In a fact sheet for Australia’s 2020 and 2030 targets, the government has claimed that the “Direct Action” plan “is achieving results” through its emissions reductions fund paying for 144 projects in 2015 to help reduce emissions. But in reality Australia’s ability to meet the target today is driven by a slowing economy with lower electricity demand and a weaker manufacturing sector.

Ahead of the Paris climate change conference later this month, Hunt told The Australian it was likely that Australia would announce at the talks that we had already met our emissions reduction target.

“The huge expectation is that it will be below zero. We’ll be able to say that we’ve already met our target.”

The data Hunt is relying on is the quarterly update put out by the Environment Department on emissions. The last update from August put emissions at 545.1 million tonnes, and it is rumoured the next update will be in November. This data is likely to suggest that Australia has reduced its emissions since the August update to 533 million tonnes, due to a reduced use of electricity as the economy remains sluggish.

“It’s not policy decisions they’ve made but because the economy has turned down, which isn’t what they’ve predicted,” Australian Conservation Foundation economist Matt Rose told Crikey.

“Their current policy settings don’t do anything to address the structural issues in terms of emissions output, so it is all about lower economic growth and those other factors to get there.”

The combination of a weaker economy, plus the government only looking to meet the bare minimum of the 5-25% emissions reduction target it had set for 2020, means it was a walk in the park, Rose says. But instead of resetting a more ambitious target, the government will wait and conduct a review once every five years, plus a one-off 2017 review built into the Direct Action plan.

“He’s basically said ‘we’re going to sit on our hands for five years and wait to see what other countries do’.”

Hunt told The Australian Australia could set new targets in 2020, 2025, and 2030.

Another problem with the data the government has relied on to show emissions trending downwards, Rose says, is that electricity emissions are beginning to trend upwards for the first time since 2008-09. In the last emissions report, electricity emissions rose 0.7% year-on-year, coinciding with the repeal of the carbon tax.

“Some people suggest it is increased demand, and others suggest it is because of the use of higher-emissions fuel like brown coal and black coal now that it is not taxed. The true price of it isn’t being reflected anymore because it is the cheapest fuel, especially brown coal, so people are switching back to it,” he said.

Electricity accounts for close to one-third of Australia’s emissions. If Australia’s economy rebounds, emissions could rise again.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will meet between November 30 and December 11 in Paris. Hunt, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will all attend. Countries from around the world are negotiating to attempt to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees by the end of this century. Despite the terror attacks in Paris last week, the event is still expected to go ahead.

A similar sharp fall in emissions happened in Europe in 2009, amounting to a net reduction of 542 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. In 2009, emissions were 17.4% below 1990 levels, according to the European Environment Agency. The agency suggested this was due to the major recession in the EU resulting in a reduction in consumption of coal, oil and natural gas fuels, with the biggest reductions coming from Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom.

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14 comments

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14 thoughts on “Three cheers for our failing economy!

  1. Lee Tinson

    Vintage Hunt. He has to be the laziest and apart from the truly intellectually challenged Dutton the most incompetent of the ministers in this government.

  2. Philby

    Hmmm. Only problem with the European comparison offered in this piece is that our economy continues to grow. It’s not receding as per GFC-ravaged Europe. So you simply can’t attribute all this to the slowdown.
    I suspect the reductions in emissions are a combination of a number of factors, and are being made more apparent by a slowing economy. But I’m glad we’re headed in the right direction anyway.
    As for the ACF, you’d expect their response – it’s just what they do. And they’d be smarting at the accolades Hunt has received from the international climate community in recent times.
    I’m more disturbed by comments Crikey readers demonising politicians. To all those like Lee T, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but (a) Hunt is no intellectual lightweight (I didn’t go to Yale on a scholarship. Did you?) even if he has a different political leaning to you that you find intolerable; and (b) if you’re that convinced of your environmental credentials, let’s see your better ideas. Better yet, I’ll await your name on ballot sheet as a Greens candidate so you can make a real difference.

  3. Bill Hilliger

    Direct action is gifting taxpayer monies to polluters not to pollute.

  4. Itsarort

    How often have I heard people say that we need a good war to stimulate the economy? Well, it’s not actually ‘war’ per say, it’s the Government spending money and generating enough financial heat so that lazy and conservative industry feels inclined to throw their hat into the ring.

    If the Gov is paying for the infrastructure, business will swoop-in and take the cream off the top. The Gov then collects the money through direct and indirect taxes over time.

    However, the Lib’s have shown over the years that they are more inclined to sit on their hands and hope it all fixes itself. Can Turnbull actually turn this deep-rooted ideology on its head(?); that’s the real question for voters. And, if so, surely real and significant investment into green technology would be a pretty bloody good place to start.

  5. Kevin Herbert

    Demonising pollies is the first stop for lightweight Crikey posters….eos

  6. klewso

    “Oh what a tangled web we weave
    When we’re educated to deceive.”

  7. Lorraine Stansfield

    Hunt may not be intellectually challenged but he has no integrity with regard to his position. He was completely in agreement with Labour’s climate change policy but did a quick turnaround like Turnbull when his job was on the line.

  8. Jaybuoy

    @Philby.. Hunt is no intellectual lightweight..no he isn’t and that makes his hypocritical dullard stance on CO2 reduction issues worse..

  9. MJPC

    Meanwhile the worst fires in 35 years in Esperence and Sydney set to have, this week, the hottest November temps in recorded history.
    Welcome to the future Greg Hunt, one you have no knowledge how to address! Wait till Paris; we’re sending a lightweight for a heavyweight fight.

  10. Archie Travers

    Lee #1 I really think that you could substitute a number of LNP names for Hunt and Dutton. Everyday we hear pronouncements from Government ministers that reveal an absolute lack of understanding of the problems facing this country.