My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for 9 October 2018

by ray goodlass

Time for government to come clean about emissions

Last week saw disturbing news about the federal government’s attitude towards carbon emissions and the resulting climate change.

First cab off the rank was PM Scott Morrison’s claim Australia will meet its Paris targets ‘in a canter’, which is not borne out by the facts. So large a re-writing of the truth was this that “Scott Morrison is either lying about carbon emissions, or just plain ignorant” noted the New Daily.

Truth is we are not on track to meet our 2030 emissions reduction target “in a canter”. Mr Morrison is either being blindly optimistic or he is quoting ‘alternative facts’ so extremely untrue they would make even President Trump blush in shame. Is Mr Morrison becoming our Donald Trump?

That’s a big claim, but the real facts do tell the story. To meet the Paris target, by 2030 Australia must reduce its overall greenhouse gas emissions by 26 per cent at the very least on 2005 levels.

But are we on track to meet this? According to the Department of the Environment and Energy, we are not. And not by a long way.

The government’s most recent projections, released in December last year told us that “Total emissions in 2030 are projected to be 570 Mt CO2-e, which is 5 per cent below 2005 levels (597 Mt CO2-e).”

Let’s just dwell on that for a moment. The government’s own environment and energy department projects that Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions will be 5 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Not 26 per cent below 2005 levels; not 20 per cent below 2005 levels; not 15 per cent, not 10 per cent; but 5 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Given that the PM’s assertions about us meeting our emission reduction targets are not borne out by the facts it is not surprising that, as Greg Jericho reported in the Guardian Australia, “The government consistently buries the quarterly figures, and no wonder”.

For Friday of the week before last, under the cover of the release of the first interim report from the Hayne Royal Commission into the financial sector and the day before a long weekend of AFL and NRL grand finals, the government released the latest quarterly data showing that greenhouse gas emissions had once again risen.

Now you can call this government many things, such as a bunch of dolts deluded into believing climate change is a global conspiracy, a bunch of fools lacking the intellectual ability to believe the science, or a bunch of feckless cowards lacking the political acumen to combat the climate change denying fools occupying positions both on the backbench and in cabinet, but you can’t call them subtle.

Ever since taking office this government has sought to release the quarterly greenhouse gas emissions data at times when it will most likely be lost in the news cycle. The usual favourite is the week before Christmas.

The reason the government chooses to release the data at times when it is unlikely to get much attention is because the emissions data is continually awful and utterly shameful.

Perhaps this is not surprising given our emissions have been increasing every quarter since the end of the carbon price period in June 2014.

The good news is electricity emissions have been falling recently, the bad news is that so too has our level of renewable energy production.

And even though emissions from electricity have fallen since June 2016, in that time emissions from all other areas have increased by more than that amount.

Indeed, the government’s own figures reveal not only that we are not going to make the 26% target in a canter, but instead by 2030 our emissions will be about 29% above the level they need to be.

If the prime minister has some data in his back pocket that leads him to believe that Australia will meet its targets, maybe he could give those assessments to the Department of Environment and Energy so they can then publish them for all of us to see.

Though, of course, given how the government hides its emissions data, they’ll probably publish it at a time calculated for maximum exposure, rather than on Christmas or New Year’s Eve at 4.50pm.