Australia's greenhouse gas emissions up for four years in a row

Australia's greenhouse gas emissions in 2018 rose for a fourth year in a row, an increase at odds with the country's Paris climate pledge, according to a government submission to the United Nations.

The National Inventory Report to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change showed emissions last year were 537 million tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent (which include all greenhouse gases), based on preliminary figures.

That tally, which includes changes to land-use and forestry, was up 0.4 per cent from 2017's 534.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent.

The Morrison government is due to release its full figures for 2018 emissions by the end of this month. The UN report provides an indication of which way the trajectory will be pointed.


The responsibility for emissions will formally fall to Angus Taylor, who has had emissions added to his energy portfolio following the Coalition's election win earlier this month. Comment on the UN report has been sought.

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The government's emissions figures would have shown a faster increase if not for land use, land-use change and forestry – known by the acronym LULUCF – serving as a carbon sink for the past four years.

The report noted that Australia's forest area had increased by an estimated 772,000 hectares in 2017, and by 4.6 million hectares since 2010.

Those estimates, though, have been disputed by some environmental groups that point to the Queensland government showing a rapid rise in land-clearing in recent years, while NSW has also loosened its native vegetation laws in the past two years.

Australia pledged at the Paris climate summit in 2015 that it would lower emissions by 26 to 28 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.

About half that reduction, though, were to come from the use of so-called Kyoto carry-over credits generated during the current climate accord known as the Kyoto Protocol. Labor promised at the elections it would achieve a 45 per cent reduction on 2005 levels without resorting to the Kyoto credits.

In 2005, Australia's greenhouse gas emissions reached 610.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent.

More to come