Australia's greenhouse gas emissions fall slightly in 2019

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions fell just 0.9% in 2019 as increasing emissions from liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plants largely offset declines in the power and farm sectors, government data showed on Friday.

Total emissions for calendar 2019 fell by 5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2-e) from the previous year to 532.5 Mt CO2-e, the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources said in a quarterly update.

The total is 13.7% below 2005 levels, putting Australia half way towards meeting its Paris Accord commitment to cut emissions by between 26% and 28% from 2005 levels by 2030.

The latest data comes as the government prepares plans to rebuild the economy following the coronavirus pandemic, looking to create jobs and keep energy prices down, with gas playing a key role in the transition to a low carbon economy.

“The government is committed to reducing emissions without imposing new costs on households, businesses or the economy,” Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor said in a statement.

The biggest emissions decline in 2019 came from the farm sector as a prolonged drought depleted cattle and sheep populations and reduced methane emissions.

Lower coal-fired generation and rising wind and solar power helped cut emissions from the electricity sector, which remains the country’s biggest source of pollution, accounting for a third of total greenhouse gas emissions.

An 11% rise in LNG production, with the start-up of the Ichthys LNG plant and other plants reaching full capacity, added 1.9 Mt CO2-e to the country’s total.

The Climate Council said the drop in emissions is likely to be temporary given the drought has now eased, and also that the official tally does not include the 830 Mt of carbon dioxide spewed by the bushfires that raged across Australia in late 2019.

Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Himani Sarkar