April 16 (Reuters) - Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions fell 0.8 percent in 2013, according to government data, driven by lower electricity demand and a bigger share of renewables in the energy mix.
The country emitted 538.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) last year, not counting emissions from land use and forestry, the Department of Environment said.
Despite the cuts, Australia’s emissions per capita stand at 23.2 tonnes, among the highest in the world and nearly four times more than China.
“Over the year to December 2013, there was a decline in emissions from electricity, reflecting lower electricity demand and changes in the generation mix. Emissions from industrial processes also declined over the year,” the department said.
Electricity generation is the biggest source of emissions in coal-dependent Australia, accounting for a third of the country’s greenhouse gases, but saw a 5-percent drop last year as solar and wind increased their share in the mix.
Those cuts were offset somewhat by a 6.7-percent increase in emissions associated with mining.
2013 was the first full calendar year that 350 of Australia’s biggest companies had to pay a tax on their carbon emissions, which analysts say has contributed to the fall in greenhouse gases.
The country aims to cut emissions to 5 percent below 2000 levels by 2020, and must stop over 430 million tonnes of CO2e being released into the atmosphere between now and then to meet the target.
The Conservative government that took power last year wants to remove the carbon tax and replace it with a fund that would pay emitters to pollute less.
Reporting by Stian Reklev; Editing by Joseph Radford