Emissions target set to devastate agriculture and transport sectors

Emissions target set to devastate agriculture and transport sectors, by Ron Boswell.

When it comes to serious public scrutiny, no policy area has been more overlooked than the economic impact of Australia’s 2030 climate targets. …

Australia is slouching towards an economic shock of historic proportions. In 2005, Australia generated 597 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.

  • The Coalition government has committed to reduce this annual carbon footprint by 26 per cent to 442 million tonnes by 2030.
  • Labor has pledged a 45 per cent reduction to 328 million tonnes.

In other words, the difference between the two parties’ climate targets is substantial, 114 million tonnes annually by 2030….

Meeting the 2030 targets, especially Labor’s, will be extremely difficult. In the 12 years since 2005, Australia’s emissions have fallen by 43 million tonnes to 554 million tonnes. That reduction is overwhelmingly due to a one-off contribution from new restrictions on land clearing, meaning the economic burden has been borne largely by regional Australia. Emissions from all other sectors have been flat or growing.

So how are we going to get from an annual carbon footprint of 554 million tonnes to the Coalition target (442 million tonnes) or the Labor target (328 million tonnes) by 2030? The widespread assumption is “transition” in our electricity generation will do the trick. But that assumption is based on a big fat misconception. I suspect many people in Australia believe most CO2 emissions come from electricity generation. But electricity accounts for just a third.

If Australia is to meet the ambitious targets the burden will be borne far beyond the electricity sector. And it won’t be pretty. …

It will not be possible to meet Labor’s target without a major impact on agriculture and transport. …

About 75 per cent of agriculture emissions come from enteric fermentation (such as burping) by livestock. The only way to reduce agriculture emissions is to cut the national herd. …

What does a 35 per cent reduction in transport-related emissions look like? In indicative terms, such a cut implies taking half the cars off the road and the elimination of domestic aviation.

Ron Boswell was one of the few sensible politicians in 2007 or so who tried to find out what was happening with carbon dioxide. After I appeared on 60 Minutes to point out that the climate models were running hot, Senator Boswell (since retired) called me to find out more. One of the very few who did.

Good to see that he is onto the carbon accounting angle. When working for the Australian Greenhouse Office 1999 – 2005, I wrote FullCAM, the carbon accounting model for the “land use change and forestry” sector that was used to compute carbon emissions from Australia’s  biosphere for Kyoto Protocol compliance. It is this model that had a major impact on Australia’s baseline carbon emissions estimate, and calculated the one-off contribution from new restrictions on land clearing. Ron’s figures above seem about right. The implications are dire.

From FullCAM doco: