In 2012, Australia introduced a carbon tax, or carbon “price,” with the goal of reducing the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Then, this July, the Australian government — under a different party than in 2012 — abolished the carbon tax to fulfill an election promise, since they argued that the tax was too much of a burden on homeowners and also discouraging industry. But data released this month by the Department of the Environment shows that Australia’s emissions dropped 1.4% during 2013 (the second year of the tax), which is the highest annual decrease in the country’s emissions within the last decade. Oliver Milman reports for The Guardian:
The latest greenhouse gas inventory showed emissions from the electricity sector, the industry most affected by carbon pricing, fell 4% in the year to June.
Electricity emissions account for a third of Australia’s emissions output, which stood at 542.6m tonnes in the year to June, down from 550.2m tonnes in the previous 12 months.
Emissions from transport dropped 0.4% in the year to June, with gases released by the agriculture industry decreasing by 2.6%. Industrial processes emitted 1.3% less greenhouse gas during the year, although fugitive emissions, such as those from mining, rose 5.1%.
Electricity emissions peaked in 2008 and have steadily decreased ever since, driven by a number of factors such as the winding down of parts of Australia’s manufacturing base and energy efficiency initiatives.
The Greens leader, Christine Milne, said: “These figures demonstrate to the rest of the world just how effective our carbon price was at bringing down pollution. This is the biggest ever drop recorded and the price made it happen.
“The Abbott government will go down in history as taking the biggest backward step in tackling global warming Australia has ever seen. As well as being terrible for the climate, it is a tragedy for Australia in terms of lost investment and jobs in the clean industries of the future.”
Victoria McKenzie-McHarg, the climate change program manager at the Australian Conservation Foundation, said the figures demonstrated the carbon price was effective.
“We’ve never seen a decrease like this. Yes, there was a lot else happening in this time, but it is an indication that the policy was working,” she said.
“The price did better than expected. Also, we would have seen deeper cuts in emissions over time as the price created a long-term economic signal and changed investment in energy. We never expected to see the biggest reductions straight away.”
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