The AGO's Numbers---What Do They Mean?

Harold Clough

October 2001

1.Actual Emissions

In April 2001, the Australian Greenhouse Office published the actual emissions in Australia of carbon dioxide equivalent-gases in megatonnes, measured in accordance with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Australia's emissions for year 1990, the base year for measuring carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions to establish Australia's target emissions under the Kyoto Protocol, and the actual emissions for 1999, being the latest year for which measurements are available, are as follows:

Carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions






Energy   299.5 76.7   364.6 79.6
     Electricity generation 129.1   33.1 171.8   37.5
     Manufacturing,      construction, other 79.4   20.3 87.9   19.2
     Transport 61.5   15.8 73.9   16.1
     Fugitive 29.5   7.6 30.8   6.7
Industrial Processes   12.0 3.1   9.7 2.1
Agriculture   91.2 23.4   93.8 20.5
Forestry   -27.3 -7.0   -25.9 -5.7
Waste   14.9 3.8   16.0 3.5
Total emission (UNFCCC)   390.3 100.0   458.2 100.0

Domestic transport in 1999 had 73.9 megatonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions which could be broken down into:

    Cars, wagons and motorcycles

    42.1 megatonnes



    23.2 megatonnes



    1.3 megatonnes



    1.7 megatonnes



    4.1 megatonnes



    1.5 megatonnes

    2 .0%


    73.9 megatonnes



2. Kyoto Target

In September 2001, the Australian Greenhouse Office issued the draft Third Natural Communication, which made it clear that Australia's emissions under the Kyoto Protocol construct are very different from the emissions shown above measured under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The key issue is Australia's emissions in the 1990 base year under the Kyoto rules.

  1. Australia's forestry sink, shown in the 1990 emissions as negative 27.3 megatonnes, is zero under the Kyoto rules.
  2. Land-clearing is a very large unknown and will not be determined by the National Carbon Accounting System until 2002. The Australian Greenhouse Office draft Third National Communication (September 2001) estimates that land-clearing will add 103.5 megatonnes (Chapter 3, page 10, Table 3.7) in 1990.
  3. Australia's carbon dioxide equivalent emissions measured in accordance with the United Nationals Framework Convention on Climatic Change (UNFCCC) in 1990 were 390.3 megatonnes. Adjusting this number to comply with the Kyoto Protocol construct gives the following result:

    1990 emissions (UNFCCC)

    390.3 megatonnes

    Add back forestry credit

    27.3 megatonnes

    Add land clearing

    103.5 megatonnes

    Total 1990 emission Kyoto rules

    521.1 megatonnes

    Add 8 per cent under Kyoto Protocol

    41.7 megatonnes

    Australia's Kyoto target

    562.8 megatonnes



  4. The Australian Greenhouse Office draft Third National Communication notes that the assessments of forestry and land clearing numbers are subject to large uncertainty until the completion of the National Carbon Accounting System determination in 2002.


3. Projected 2010 Emissions

  1. The Australian Greenhouse Office draft Third National Communication (September 2001) projected the 2010 carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions, measured in accordance with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climatic Change (UNFCCC), to be between 547 and 612 megatonnes with 'business as usual', and between 478 and 561 megatonnes with 'measures'. These differences emphasised the large uncertainties in the projections and the inherent difficulties in accurate measurement. In the National Greenhouse Strategy of 1998, the Australian Greenhouse Office estimated the 2010 emissions to be 455.9 megatonnes, which was surpassed in 1999 when emissions were 458.2 megatonnes. This exemplifies the uncertainty of forecasts.
  2. In Chapter 5 (page 17) of the draft Third National Communication (September 2001) the Australian Greenhouse Office states: 'a preliminary assessment of Australia's emission projections according to the Kyoto Protocol provisions projects that in 2010 emissions could lie between 106 and 118 per cent of the 1990 levels'. Assuming that the 1990 levels under the Kyoto rules are 521.1 megatonnes as calculated above in Clause 2(c), the projected emissions in 2010 would be between 552.4 and 614.9 megatonnes. That is between 10.4 megatonnes below, and 52.1 megatonnes above, Australia's Kyoto target.
  3. The 2010 projected emissions measured in accordance with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climatic Change (UNFCCC) of 478 to 561 megatonnes were increased by between 74.4 and 53.9 megatonnes to allow for forestry and land clearing under the Kyoto Protocol construct.


4. Kyoto Compliance

If the Kyoto projections for 2010 and Kyoto target as shown in 3(c) above are correct, and the worst case is an excess of emissions of 52.1 megatonnes in a total of 562.8 megatonnes which is 9.3 per cent, Australia can probably meet the target without resorting to carbon trading, which would devastate our secondary processing industries.

It must be recognised that 52.1 megatonnes is still a very large number, and in 1999 is:

  1. over 30 per cent of the 171.8 megatonnes emitted by all power stations (the largest emitters);
  2. over 56 per cent of the 93.8 megatonnes emitted by all agriculture;
  3. 26 per cent more than the 42.1 megatonnes emitted by all cars, wagons and motor cycles.

If Australia has to reduce its emissions by 52.1 megatonnes by 2010, does it:

  1. have total blackouts for two days per week? or
  2. more than halve all agriculture? or
  3. ban all cars, wagons and motorcycles?

The significance of these types of choices must be understood and known before we sign Kyoto.


5. Kyoto Governance

The major concern with the proposed Kyoto Protocol is the loss of sovereignty involved. The decision on what new projects could be developed, what existing projects could continue and the very well-being of our country would pass from our State and Federal Governments to a bureaucrat setting in Bonn, Germany. All development would be centrally controlled from Bonn and the rules, regulations and red-tape would be a business nightmare and a bureaucrat's delight. The real danger is not greenhouse warming, it is greenhouse governance.

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