Emissions claims 'pure Fantasyland'

Greg Hunt’s claim that Australia’s emissions have peaked is “pure Fantasyland”, the Climate Council said today.

Minister for Environment Greg Hunt said today on ABC’s AM that Australia had reached peak emissions, based on national accounts showing a reduction in land emissions.

The Climate Council’s Professor Will Steffen said the true test of whether a country was effectively tackling climate change was whether or not fossil fuel emissions were going down rapidly.

“Emissions from the electricity sector, the largest source of emissions, jumped 3 per cent in the 2014-15 year compared to 2013-14,” Prof Steffen said.

“Furthermore, there is no clear evidence for a peak in fossil fuel emissions when other sources of emissions, such as transport and industrial processes, are included.

“In fact, independent analysis by carbon consultancy Reputex found Australia's national greenhouse gas emissions are set to keep rising well beyond 2020 on current trends, with the projected growth rate one of the worst in the developed world.

Prof Steffen said using a reduction in land emissions as basis for claiming a peak in overall emissions was very misleading.

“There is evidence that emissions from land clearing in Queensland have risen sharply over the past two years, and these are not shown in the national accounts. This points to the challenges inherent in accurately reporting changes in land emissions and uptake,” he said.

“In addition to accounting challenges, land carbon is also vulnerable to rapid return to the atmosphere through increased bushfire frequency and changes in land clearance policies, and so should not be used as “offsets” for fossil fuel emissions.”

Prof Steffen emphasised that in the post-Paris world the focus must be on rapid and deep cuts in fossil fuel emissions.

“There is no time to waste. Every year that we don’t significantly reduce fossil fuel emissions matters. We have an extremely limited carbon budget now, and Australia is rapidly blowing its budget while fiddling at the edges with land carbon," he said.

“We cannot solve climate change through questionable carbon accounting that hides increases in fossil fuel emissions."

Minister Hunt’s claims come as startling new data released yesterday revealed the temperature of Earth had surged strongly in January and February.

February 2016 was Earth’s hottest February since records began in 1880, In fact, it is very likely that February 2016 was more than 1.5oC warmer than pre-industrial, already breaching the Paris aspirational target.

“We’ve got global temperature records tumbling left and right and our Great Barrier Reef is under imminent threat of yet another coral bleaching event,” Prof Tim Flannery said.

“In the face of such disconcerting data, we’ve got a minister who is ignoring the increase in fossil fuel emissions and and is still insisting that Australia’s doing a tip-top job of tackling climate change.”

By contrast, both the European Union and the United States have peaked their fossil fuel emissions.

“Making a claim that isn’t backed up by the facts and then repeating it a thousand times in the hopes it will make it true is not an effective approach to climate change policy,” Prof Tim Flannery said.

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