Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are rising because of the liquefied natural gas industry, but federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor insists the sector is helping to bring down emissions globally.
Figures released on Thursday show Australians greenhouse gas emissions were up by 0.8 per cent in the three months to December, and 0.7 per cent higher than the same time last year.
Emissions in the electricity sector fell by 3.5 per cent in the year to December and agricultural pollution dropped by 3.3 per cent.
But emissions grew across another six sectors, including LNG exports which have grown rapidly in recent years.
However, Mr Taylor says there is a bright side, with gas exports doing their bit for the global effort to combat climate change.
“They’re having a very substantial impact on reducing global emissions,” he told ABC Radio National on Friday.
“LNG exports are important because they’re actually being sold up into Asia to replace coal, and that’s resulting in significant reductions in global emissions.
“So Australia’s contribution to global emissions through what’s going on here is very, very important.”
But that doesn’t mean Australia should stop exporting or using coal for the time being, the minister said.
“Coal won’t disappear overnight. It can’t possibly because we don’t have the alternatives yet.”
Mr Taylor said growth in the LNG industry was expected to slow down in coming years and this had been factored into the coalition’s emissions reduction plan.
He said the government had planned everything “to the last tonne” in order to reach its Paris agreement commitment to reduce emissions by 26 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
Government projections show more than half that target can be achieved through carryover credits from achieving goals of the Kyoto protocol.
Although Australia met its target in the first Kyoto agreement, that actually allowed for an increase of emissions.
Labor’s energy spokesman Mark Butler says it’s a government “fantasy” that Australia is on track to reach the Paris targets.
“The Liberals will try every trick in the book to avoid scrutiny of their record on tackling climate change,” he said.
Along with copping flack from Labor, the federal coalition is also facing heat from its colleagues in NSW, who are still holding out hope it will resurrect the National Energy Guarantee.
Mr Taylor has ruled out bringing back the combined energy and climate policy, which contributed to the end of Malcolm Turnbull’s prime ministership.
But NSW Energy Minister Matt Kean will argue in a speech the policy is vital.
“We need a national framework that properly integrates climate and energy policy,” he’ll say on Friday, according to The Australian.
“That’s why the NSW government still supports the National Energy Guarantee and will continue to support a national mechanism that integrates climate and energy policy, which provides business with the freedom to innovate.”