Australia’s carbon emissions increased by roughly 1% in 2021, as driving and travel increased and industrial activity rebounded in the aftermath of COVID-19, the government said on Monday.
The spike, which officials predict to continue through the March quarter of 2022, presents a challenge for the country’s new Labor administration, which has increased the country’s climate commitment, seeking to decrease emissions by 43 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.
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 percent increase in the industrial sector, and a 4.2 percent increase in the agriculture sector due to drought recovery.
These increases were somewhat offset by a 4.2 percent decline in the largest emitting sector, electricity production, with more power coming from wind and solar and less from coal and gas-fired facilities, according to a quarterly statement from the Department of Industry.
It said that the pattern led to a further increase in the March quarter of 2022 to 489 Mt CO2-e, a 2% increase over March 2021.
Since 1990, the industrial sector has had the greatest percentage rise in emissions, up 54 percent or 35.8 Mt CO2-e, owing primarily to the fast expansion of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) export business.
The government’s proposal to tighten the so-called “safeguard mechanism” which mandates the country’s largest polluters to maintain their emissions below an agreed-upon level, or baseline, and to purchase carbon credits when they exceed that baseline, would target emissions from major firms.
The government also intends to give tax benefits on electric vehicles in order to encourage the use of greener vehicles, which would help reduce emissions from the transportation industry.
“Tackling transport emissions needs to be a priority for this government,” Greenpeace Australia Pacific campaigner Lindsay Soutar said in a statement.