Australia’s GHG emissions climbed in 2021 amid pandemic recovery


Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions increased by roughly 1% in 2021, as driving and travel increased and manufacturing activity rebounded in the aftermath of COVID-19 pandemic, the government announced on Monday.

The government forecasts that the emissions will continue to rise through the first quarter of 2022, presenting a challenge for the country’s new Labor government, which has raised the country’s climate target earlier this month, seeking to cut emissions by 43% from 2005 levels by 2030. 

In 2021, greenhouse gas emissions increased by 4.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2-e) to 488.0 Mt CO2-e, owing to a 4% increase in transport emissions, a 3.3% increase in the manufacturing sector, and a 4.2% increase in the farm sector after recovery from drought.

Australia’s Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (DISER) stated in its quarterly report that these increases were partially offset by a 4.2% decline in the largest emitting sector, electricity generation, with more power coming from wind and solar and less from coal and gas-fired facilities. 

Officials said emissions were down 21.4% compared to 2005 levels. However, nearly all of this reduction was ascribed to a substantial decrease in emissions from land use as a result of changes in land-clearing laws. 

The agency estimates that the national emissions will see a further increase in the first quarter of 2022 to 489 Mt CO2-e, a 2% increase from March 2021.

Emissions from large manufacturers would be targeted by the government’s plan to tighten the so-called “safeguard mechanism,” which compels the country’s largest polluters to keep their emissions below an agreed-upon limit, or baseline, and to buy carbon credits when they exceed that baseline. 

The government also intends to offer tax benefits on electric vehicles in order to encourage the use of cleaner vehicles, which would help reduce emissions from the transportation industry.

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