Facebook advertisements for the government's "Australia's making positive energy" campaign
Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources Department ad (Image: Facebook's ad library)

The federal government is spending $26,000 a week on Facebook advertising promoting a campaign about Australia’s emissions, criticised by a leading environmental group as being “half-truths and misrepresentations”. 

The Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources spent $26,120 between November 1 and 7 to share six posts from the Facebook page “Australia’s Making Positive Energy”, coinciding with the start of COP26 in Glasgow. The ads tout Australia’s 20% reduction of emissions in the past 15 years as proof. They were shown to more than 6 million Australian Facebook users, according to Facebook’s ad library.

The campaign includes Google advertisements seen by Crikey, although details about that spend are not available. 

But Climate Council senior researcher Tim Baxter said the campaign is misleading at best: “It’s a series of half-truths and misrepresentations.”

Baxter says promoting Australia achieving a reduction instead of, for example, educating Australians on energy efficiency, doesn’t make sense if the goal is to continue reducing emissions.  

“It seems to be a particularly poor use of money except in the context of the upcoming election campaign,” he said. 

The reason to be sceptical of the figures is that they use favourable ways of slicing emissions data. The 20% reduction figure is based on emissions including land clearing from 2005 — a drop that mostly came from changes to state laws and not federal actions.

If land clearing is excluded, Australia’s emissions have increased by about 5% in that time, Baxter says, while other OECD nations reduced theirs.

This spend comes as part of the federal government’s publicly funded $12.9 million campaign to “highlight a range of technologies where the [federal] government, business and communities are investing to grow new industries and jobs across the country while reducing emissions”, according to a September press release by Energy and Emissions Minister Angus Taylor. 

In late October, the full spend of the campaign was revealed at Senate estimates. It also heard that the Energy Department would review if Liberal MPs breached guidelines by publishing advertisements about the campaign on their private social media accounts.