Australia’s Emissions Dropped 5% in 2020 Amid Pandemic Restrictions

Highlights :

  • The emissions fell due to the continuing effects of COVID-19 restrictions on emissions from transport, which fell 13.2%.
  • An 8.3% drop in fugitive emissions, partly due to reduced coal production and increased carbon capture and storage
    ongoing reductions in emissions from electricity (down 5.6%), also contributed to the decline in the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions fell 5.3% during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, according to government data.

Emissions for the year to March 2021 are estimated to be 494.2 Mt carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e). This is 5.3% (27.8 Mt CO2-e) less than the previous year and is the lowest emission level recorded in the inventory, showed the Department of Industry’s Quarterly Update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory: March 2021 (Incorporating emissions from the NEM up to June 2021).

The Quarterly Update provides estimates of Australia’s national inventory of greenhouse gas emissions up to the March quarter of 2021, and preliminary estimates of emissions for the year-to- June quarter 2021.

As per the report, lower emissions this year reflect:

  • The continuing effects of COVID-19 restrictions on emissions from transport, which fell 13.2%.
  • An 8.3% drop in fugitive emissions, partly due to reduced coal production and increased carbon capture and storage
    ongoing reductions in emissions from electricity (down 5.6%).

These reductions were partially offset by increased emissions from the land and agriculture sectors.

Over the year to March 2021 the 5.6% decrease in emissions from the electricity sector was mainly due to a 4.4% reduction in coal generation, a 23.9% reduction in gas generation and a corresponding 11.4% increase in supply from renewable sources in the NEM.

Transport emissions decreased 13.2% over the year to March, reflecting an 11.6% decrease in petrol consumption and a 58.3% decrease in domestic jet fuel consumption related to the COVID restrictions on movement.

Emissions from the agriculture sector increased 1.7% to 73.6 Mt CO2-e, reflecting improving conditions in the sector.

Emissions in Australia from export industries decreased 5.4% (10.9 Mt CO2-e).

The report also shows that in the year to March 2021, emissions per person and the emissions intensity of the economy were at their lowest levels in 31 years. Emissions per person were lower than 1990 by 47.8%, while the emissions intensity of the economy was 66.2% lower than in 1990.

Overall emissions in the March quarter rose 0.7% on a seasonally adjusted and weather normalised basis.

Australia’s emissions have declined 23.4% since their peak in the year to June 2007. Emissions in the year to March 2021 were 20.8% below emissions in the year to June 2005 (the baseline year for Australia’s 2030 target under the Paris Agreement), shows the Quarterly Update.

Australia remains one of the world’s worst greenhouse gas emitters per capita. Its conservative government faces international pressure to step up its commitment to cut emissions by 2030 ahead of United Nations climate talks in Glasgow in November.

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) says that at current rates of wind and solar farm development in the country, the national electricity market could have enough renewable power available in 2025 to meet 100% of consumer demand at certain periods.

The complete Quarterly Update can be accessed here.

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Soumya Duggal

Soumya is a master's degree holder in English, with a passion for writing. It's an interest she has directed towards environmental writing recently, with a special emphasis on the progress being made in renewable energy.

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