4613.0 - Australia's Environment: Issues and Trends, 2007  
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Contents >> Atmosphere trends >> Greenhouse gases

Image: Smoke stacksGREENHOUSE GASES


Net greenhouse gas emissions


Australia’s net greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors totalled 559.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2-e) in 2005 under the accounting provisions applying to Australia’s 108% emissions target. Emissions in 2005 were 102.2% of 1990 levels.

The largest sectoral increase in greenhouse gas emissions over the 1990 to 2005 period, of 42.6% (83.4 Mt CO2-e), occurred in the stationary energy sector, driven in part by increasing population, household incomes and export increases from the resources sector. Transport had the next largest growth, with an increase of 29.9% (18.5 Mt CO2-e). The main driver for the increase in transport emissions is continuing growth in household incomes and number of vehicles.

Offsetting growth in these sectors has been a strong decline in net emissions from the land use, land use change and forestry sector, in particular, reductions in clearing of forest cover.

Net greenhouse gas emissions
Graph: Net greenhouse gas emissions
Note: Kyoto-based estimates, expressed in million of tonnes (Mt) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e,). CO2-e provides the basis for comparing the warming effect of different greenhouse gases.
Source: Australian Greenhouse Office, National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, 2005.


NET GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS

1990 (base year)
1995
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005

547 127
507 469
551 503
558 831
566 584
545 105
559 088
559 074

Note: Kyoto-based estimates, expressed in million of tonnes (Mt) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e,). CO2-e provides the basis for comparing the warming effect of different greenhouse gases.
Source: Australian Greenhouse Office, National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, 2005.


NET GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS, percentage change

Emissions Mt CO2-e (a)
Per cent change
in emissions
1990
2005
1990 to 2005

Energy
287.0
391.0
36.3
Stationary energy
196.0
279.4
42.6
Transport
61.9
80.4
29.9
Fugitive emissions
29.1
31.2
7.3
Industrial processes
25.3
29.5
16.5
Agriculture
87.7
87.9
0.2
Land use, land use change and forestry (b)
128.9
33.7
-73.9
Waste
18.3
17.0
-6.9
Australia's net emissions
547.1
559.1
2.2

(a) Carbon dioxide equivalent CO2-e provides the basis for comparing the warming effect of different greenhouse gases.
(b) 2005 estimate is interim only and will be revised with the next update of the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory.
Source: Australian Greenhouse Office, National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, 2005.

Net greenhouse gas emissions, selected sectors

Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Emissions of these and other greenhouse gases may be compared by converting them to carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2-e).

Carbon dioxide is the most important of the greenhouse gases in Australia’s inventory as it accounts for nearly three-quarters (74.3%) or 415.5 Mt of total CO2-e emissions. Methane accounts for 20.2% (112.9 Mt CO2-e) and the remaining gases account for 5.5% (30.6 Mt CO2-e) of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. The energy sector was the major contributor to carbon dioxide emissions at 88.0%. Agriculture was the main contributor of methane (59.5%) and nitrous oxide (85.3%).

The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions overall, was the energy sector comprising 69.9% (391.0 Mt CO2-e) of emissions. This represented a 36.3% increase from 1990 levels.

Emissions from agriculture accounted for 15.7% of net national emissions (87.9 Mt CO2-e). In 2005, emissions from agricultural sources were 0.2% (0.2 Mt) higher than in 1990.

Relatively minor sources of greenhouse gas emissions include industrial processes (29.5 Mt CO2-e and 5.3% of net national emissions). These emissions were 4.2 Mt (14.2%) higher than 1990 levels, partially attributable to the growth in mineral product and chemical industries.

Net greenhouse gas emissions, selected sectors

Graph
Source: Australian Greenhouse Office, National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, 2005.


Carbon dioxide emissions

While Australia only accounts for around 1.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, its CO2 emissions per person are relatively high compared with other OECD countries. In 2004, 17.53 tonnes of CO2 were emitted for every Australian, compared with an OECD country average of 11.09 tonnes of CO2 per person.

Australia’s relatively large emissions per person can be attributed to factors such as the high usage of coal in electricity generation, the energy intensive aluminium smelting sector, and the high dependence on motor vehicles and trucks for transport.

In 2004, the emissions intensity of the Australian economy (0.59 kg CO2 per dollar of GDP PPP) was relatively high compared with the OECD average (0.44 kg CO2 per dollar of GDP PPP), shown in the graph below.

However, over the period 1990-2005, Australia’s emissions intensity fell by 37%.

Carbon dioxide emissions intensity, selected OECD countries, 2004
Graph: Carbon dioxide emissions intensity, selected OECD countries, 2004
(a) Kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions per dollar of GDP (at 2000$ PPP).
Source: International Energy Agency, 'Key World Energy Statistics 2006'.


Carbon dioxide emissions per person, selected OECD countries, 2004

Graph:Carbon dioxide emissions per person, selected OECD countries, 2004
Source: International Energy Agency, 'Key World Energy Statistics 2006'.

Carbon dioxide equivalent emissions

The greenhouse gas emissions intensity of the Australian economy, expressed as emissions per dollar of GDP, has declined over the period 1990 to 2005 by 37%, from 0.99 to 0.62 kg of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions (CO2-e). The falling trend in emissions per unit of GDP reflects:
  • specific emissions management actions across sectors
  • the large decline in emissions over the period, largely due to reductions in forest clearing
  • structural changes in the economy with stronger growth in the services sector than in the more energy-intensive manufacturing sector.

Australia has reduced its emissions per capita over the period 1990 to 2005 by 14% from 32.3 to 27.7 tonnes CO2-e. Australia’s high per capita emissions reflect a number of factors:
  • the dominance of the use of coal as a fuel in the electricity industry (no nuclear power is produced in Australia and hydro-electric power options are limited)
  • the presence of net emissions from the land use, land use change and forestry sector
  • the impact of international trade patterns, which result in the production in Australia of many goods with high associated emission levels - that is, resource and agricultural products - that are destined for export and consumption in other countries.

Carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) emissions, net, per person and per $GDP
Graph: Carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) emissions, net, per person and per $GDP
(a) GDP is a chain volume measure. In accordance with the Kyoto Protocol base year = 1990.
Source: Australian Greenhouse Office, National Greenhouse Gas Inventory 2005.


GREENHOUSE MACRO INDICATORS, Kyoto accounting
Emissions (CO2-e)
Tonnes CO2-e/capita
kg CO2-e/$GDP

1990
547.1
32.3
0.99
1993
504.0
28.7
0.88
1996
510.7
28.1
0.79
1999
540.0
28.7
0.73
2002
566.6
29.0
0.70
2005
559.1
27.7
0.62

Source: Australian Greenhouse Office, National Greenhouse Gas Inventory 2005.

Forest and grassland conversion
In 2004, 6% of net greenhouse gas emissions came from land use, changes in land use, and the forestry sector. This sector includes land clearing, which was a major source of Australia’s net greenhouse gas emissions in the early 1990s, but is now much reduced. This reduction offset most of the increases in emissions that have occurred in all other sectors (Endnote 1).

Deliberate removal of forests for the purpose of a change in land use is referred to as deforestation. It is distinct from natural effects, such as dieback and fire, and from the temporary removal of forest by harvesting.

Vast areas of native vegetation have been cleared since Europeans first settled in Australia in 1788.

Over the decade 1995 to 2004, although land clearing continued, the rate of clearing fell by about 11%. The figures do not distinguish between the type of vegetation (native or non-native) that was cleared.

There are a number of environmental, economic and social impacts associated with the clearing of native vegetation, including loss of biodiversity and salinisation.

Forest and grassland conversion: rates of forest conversion and reclearing

Grpah: Forest and grassland conversion: rates of forest conversion and reclearing
Note: Forest conversion is land cleared for the first time. Reclearing is clearing of land previously cleared.
Source: Australian Greenhouse Office, 2007, Australian Greenhouse Emissions Information System,
<http://www.ageis.greenhouse.gov.au>, last viewed 5 September 2007.

Emissions of greenhouse gases, transport sector

In 2005, the transport sector contributed 80.4 Mt CO2-e or 14.4% of Australia’s net greenhouse gas emissions. Transport emissions are one of the strongest sources of emissions growth in Australia. Emissions from this sector were 30% higher in 2005 than in 1990, and have increased by about 1.8% annually.

Road transport was the main source of transport emissions in 2005 (87.9%) and accounted for 12.6% of national emissions. Emissions from road transport increased by 31% (16.5 Mt) between 1990 and 2005. Passenger cars were the largest transport source (contributing 43.7 Mt). Emissions from passenger cars increased by 25% (8.6 Mt) between 1990 and 2005. Emissions from light commercial vehicles (LCVs) and trucks have also grown strongly.

Other transport sources are far smaller contributors. Civil aviation contributed 6% (5.1 Mt) of transport emissions, domestic shipping 3% (2.4 Mt) and railways 3% (2.1 Mt).

Domestic air transport emissions were 76% (2.2 Mt) higher than in 1990. Emissions have grown strongly in this sector, particularly in the early 1990s. However, emissions in the 1990 base year were unusually low because of extensive airline disruptions in that year, which contributed to the magnitude of change. By contrast, emissions from shipping have fallen, reflecting improved productivity and changes in activity.

TRANSPORT MODE, estimated greenhouse gas emissions, Mt CO2 equivalent
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005

Road
68.8
68.2
69.9
71.9
68.1
70.7
Rail
1.6
1.8
1.8
1.5
1.7
2.1
Civil aviation
4.4
5.5
5.8
5.3
4.8
5.1
Domestic navigation
1.5
1.6
1.6
1.1
1.6
2.4
All domestic transport (a)
76.3
77.2
79.2
79.8
76.2
80.4
International bunkers
Aviation
7.4
7.9
6.7
6.0
6.0
6.8
Marine
2.8
2.6
2.9
2.8
2.8
3.0

Note: Components may not sum to totals due to rounding.
(a) Does not include ‘Other transport’.
Source: Australian Greenhouse Office, 'National Greenhouse Gas Inventory 2005'.

Endnotes
  1. State of the Environment Committee, 2006, Australia State of the Environment 2006, Department of the Environment and Heritage, Canberra. <back

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