Friday, December 13, 2013

Climate change: The latest National Comunication

The government released its Sixth National Communication under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change today detailing our efforts to reduce emissions and combat climate change. Or rather "efforts", because from reading it, its clear that we are doing sweet fuck all.

The 6th National Communication resembles all the previous ones, reciting the same list of policies. They even include the East Coast Forestry Project, a feature of national communications for the past twenty years, and which has only planted 40,000 hectares out of its planned 200,000 (and that target has now been lowered - I guess they're finally admitting twenty years of failure). Most of the "policies" boil down to "we're spending money on research to avoid actually doing anything", but there are a couple of mind-bogglers: they include both the "Roads of National Significance" and the "Business Growth Agenda" mining programme as climate change measures. They are - but not positive ones.

Then there's the obvious gaping fiddle: projected forestry emissions assume a "midpoint" scenario with a carbon price of $12 per ton. Energy modelling assumes $5 per ton. Actual carbon prices are negligible, meaning we are currently in the "high" scenario and back to significant land-use change from carbon-absorbing trees to methane-emitting cows. This makes a difference of 2 millions tons to current emissions, and 6 million tons to our 2020 scenario.

And then there's the appalling news that 70% of the increase in emissions since the previous National Communication - about a million tons - is due to Methanex restarting methanol production. Allowing that to happen is looking like a really dumb idea; subsidising it like an even worse one.

As for the overall effect of these "policies":

Total gross emissions (excluding forestry) ‘with measures’ are projected to be 77,218.3 Gg CO2-e in 2020, 1 per cent lower (437.1 Gg CO2-e) than projected emissions ‘without measures’. Total net emissions, including forestry ‘with measures’ are projected to be 75,017.7 Gg CO2-e in 2020, 12 per cent lower (9,810.0 Gg CO2-e) than projected emissions ‘without measures’.

Quite apart from those forestry numbers being purest bullshit, compare that to the government's targets: an unconditional 5% reduction on 1990 emissions (56,658 Gg CO2-e) or a 10 - 20 percent reduction if conditions are met (53,676 - 47,712 Gg). Pretty obviously, we will fail to meet them. And because we have been locked out of international carbon markets, we will not be able to pretend otherwise.