The current claim

Amid unseasonal fires in Queensland, climate change has once more become the focus of political debate.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has again suggested the Coalition government — through its own hard work and policies — turned around Australia’s poor record on greenhouse gas emissions that it inherited from the former Labor government.

On Monday, he told parliament:

When we came to government we were going to miss … [the second Kyoto target] by some 700 million tonnes of abatement. What is going to happen now? We are going to exceed meeting those targets by 367 million tonnes. There has been over a billion tonne turnaround as a result of the policies that this government has put in place over the last six years to ensure that we are meeting and we are beating our emissions reduction targets.

He made a similar comment on Wednesday, telling parliament: “When we came to government there was a 700 million-tonne deficit when it came to meeting our 2020 Kyoto targets, and we set to work immediately and turned that around, and we will now exceed the Kyoto 2020 targets by 367 million tonnes.”

And on Thursday, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor repeated the claim in parliament once again:

… when we came to office, we inherited a budget deficit [and] we also inherited an emissions deficit against our obligations of over 700 million tonnes, speaker. And because of the work of this government, we are now on track to reach our 2020 Kyoto obligations, over-achieve those obligations, by 367 million tonnes. That is a 1.1 billion tonne turnaround.

Previous claims

This is not the first time senior government ministers have made this claim.

In an interview on ABC’s Insiders in March, Taylor said when the Coalition came to power it inherited a 755 million tonne emissions “deficit” needed to reach Australia’s second Kyoto target because Labor “hadn’t done the hard work”.

“We have turned that around by 1.1 billion tonnes,” he said.

“They [Labor] hadn’t got to the point where we were going to meet Kyoto. We will reach Kyoto in a canter.”

Why these claims are misleading

Fact Check previously examined this claim and found it to be misleading.

Among other things, the so-called emissions “deficit” referred to by Morrison was taken from an October 2012 report, and merely represented a forecast of the greenhouse gas reductions needed to hit Australia’s 2020 target at that time.

Soon after the Coalition came to office, it became apparent that emissions under Labor’s carbon tax had been lower than expected in a report released in September 2013, which superseded the 2012 report.

The department also for the first time factored in a significant “carryover” from the overachievement of the first Kyoto period.

Since then, emissions have been lower than anticipated as a result of soaring power prices, the states’ adoption of renewable energy and the closure of coal-fired power stations, including Victoria’s Hazelwood plant.

Coalition policies have only played a relatively minor role.

The bottom line is, when it comes to achieving Australia’s 2020 Kyoto target, the Coalition actually “inherited” a relatively strong position from Labor.

In 2013 and 2014, when Labor’s carbon tax was still in force, Australia was significantly ahead of the target for those years.

Over time, as emissions under the Coalition have steadily risen, the gap between actual emissions and the target has gradually narrowed.

As experts noted in our previous fact check, the Coalition’s “direct action” fund did achieve some abatement at a reasonable price, but a comparatively modest amount.

For these reasons, Fact Check judges the claim repeated by Morrison this week once again to be misleading.

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