Tuesday 19th of February 2019



He’s at it again. A month after spinning last year’s rising carbon emissions as being “on track”, Josh Frydenberg’s comment last week on even worse March quarter figures was that we have “a strong track record” in meeting our commitments.


National carbon emissions continue to cast a shadow over his record as environment minister. For months he delayed releasing damaging 2016 data, acting only after an FOI application was lodged by the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Now we know that in the September and December quarters last year, emissions were up by 0.4 per cent and 0.3 per cent respectively over the previous year. But that looks good against new data showing March quarter emissions up 1.6 per cent.

Our clear failure to put a dent in fossil fuel emissions is critically important news, but like his predecessor Greg Hunt, Frydenberg relies on land-use and waste data to assert that all is well.

This deception is hardly Frydenberg’s failure alone. In fact we can include ourselves in the pretence that our waste industry is under control, since we all participate in the economy that produces it.

The notion that waste management is helping to bring emissions down looks very dubious in light of what the ABC’s Four Corners revealed last week: a recycling industry whose “success” depends on illegal and interstate dumping on a massive scale.

While reasonably precise on fossil-fuel emissions, the national accounts on other sources are problematic. But it’s impossible to hide the global picture.

Tasmania’s Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Station is one of three reference points for the 30-odd atmospheric gas observing stations in the global network, and its analysis of some of the world’s cleanest air is a grim picture indeed.

The Cape Grim carbon dioxide reading, which is close to the planetary average, is now firmly stuck above 400 parts per million, about 45 per cent higher than the pre-industrial level. And the upward curve is getting steeper.

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do as the locals do...

In Australia, local councils and communities have long been at the forefront of climate action, continuing their efforts, despite periods of instability and inaction at the state and federal climate policy level. In recent times, shires, towns and cities have stepped up their efforts and profile on climate change action both at home and internationally.

This report introduces the Climate Council's Cities Power Partnership program which highlights the leaders of councils and communities that are switching to renewable energy and building greener, more efficient and resilient communities.

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frying under frydenberg...

All nations are culpable, but as the only nation to ditch carbon pricing, Australia is especially so. We replaced a promising but deficient pricing scheme (it didn’t tackle transport) with a mish-mash of ineffectual measures that skirt around the central problem, fossil-fuel emissions.

In the Hobart Mercury on 2 January, environment minister Josh Frydenberg took issue with my negative comments in December about his government’s performance on climate, writing that I overlooked “significant action”.

He wrote that the government would “easily surpass” its 2020 emission target and had a much better “emissions outlook” than when Labor was in power. He said the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency had lowered the cost of innovation.

While both those agencies are doing well, there’s a whiff of hypocrisy in underpinning an argument with such Labor initiatives without mentioning that his own government sought to abolish them. And surpassing modest targets using highly-uncertain land-use data is nothing to be proud of.

Frydenberg said I had belittled and “ridiculed” key measures of his government. I admit to angry words, but my message was that the schemes’ emissions-cutting capacity was overblown. Ignoring transport emissions, for instance, is surely a shortcoming as it was under Labor’s carbon price.

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quietly on track...

Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, fuelled by the expansion in gas exports and production, according to new figures published by the Department of Environment and Energy.

The government quietly published its quarterly emissions figures on Friday afternoon, a public holiday in Victoria and the day of the release of the interim royal commission report into the banking sector.

The figures show that Australia’s policy vacuum on climate continues to drive emissions upward and further away from the country’s Paris targets.

The data show emissions climbed 1.3% in the year to March 2018.

The March quarter for which the data was published recorded a 0.3% increase.

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