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Australia takes carbon emissions to lowest levels since 1995
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  • Australia's greenhouse emissions fell to their lowest level since 1995 over the 12 months to September 2020, according to the latest government data
  • The nation emitted 510.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent over the year to September — 23.3 million tonnes lower than the year before
  • This means Australia's emissions are now 19 per cent below 2005 levels, which is the baseline year for Australia's 2030 Paris Agreement target
  • While lowered economic activity from the COVID-19 pandemic certainly played a role in 2020's lower carbon emissions, the Australian government said emissions stayed low in the September quarter despite an economic spike
  • Solar and wind energy, combined with major investment into renewable tech, are keeping Australia on track to meet its Paris targets
  • On a global scale, Australia is still a far cry below the world's highest-emitting countries like China, the U.S., India, and Russia
  • China outputs over 13 billion tonnes of Co2 equivalent per year, the U.S. over six billion, and Russia and India over two billion

Australia's greenhouse emissions fell to their lowest level since 1995 over the 12 months to September 2020, according to the latest government data.

The Federal Government released its latest quarterly update of Australia's National Greenhouse Gas Inventory this week, highlighting 510.1 million tonnes of emissions over the year to September. This is 4.4 per cent, or 23.3 million tonnes, lower than the year before.

According to the government, Australia's emissions are now 19 per cent below 2005 levels, which is the baseline year for Australia's 2030 Paris Agreement target.

The drop in emissions follows a global trend of lower carbon output as the COVID-19 pandemic kept businesses closed and people indoors over 2020.

However, the Morrison Government said Australia's economy grew by 3.3 per cent over the September quarter, with increased economic activity bringing about more emissions from transport and agricultural production.

Despite this economic spike, overall emissions in the September 2020 quarter still fell by one per cent in trend terms. On a seasonally-adjusted and weather-normalised basis, September quarter emissions rose 1.7 per cent.

Solar and wind leading the charge

While the coronavirus pandemic certainly had a role in the lower yearly emissions, the Australian Government said its ongoing decline in emissions from electricity is driven by its "world-leading" deployment of solar and wind energy.

"Since 2017, Australia has invested $35 billion in renewables and we are continuing to deploy new solar and wind 10 times faster than the global per-person average," Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor said.

"The Government is taking real and meaningful action to reduce emissions, with more than $5.6 billion committed to new emissions reduction measures through the last two federal budgets," the Minister said.

He added that emissions per capita and the emissions intensity of the Australian economy have fallen to their lowest level in three decades despite strong upwards pressure from the exports industry.

As it stands, the production of exports for overseas markets generates 38.6 per cent of Australia's total emissions.

With ongoing investment into low-emission tech, however, Australia is continuing to bring emissions down.

"Australia beat its 2020 target by 459 million tonnes and we are on track to meet and beat our 2030 Paris target," Minister Taylor said.

Where does Australia stand globally?

While the nation is working hard to reduce its per-capita emissions, at a gross output level Australia is still a far cry below some of the world's highest-emitting countries.

China, for example, emitted around 13.4 billion tonnes of greenhouse gasses in 2018, according to environmental data aggregator Climate Tracker, with this figure expected to continue to grow through to 2030.

This equates to over 3.5 million tonnes of Co2 equivalent per day — meaning China alone takes just a matter of weeks to output what Australia does in a year.

The United States emits around 6.5 billion tonnes of Co2 equivalent per year, while Russia and India output over two billion tonnes per year.

As such, Australia's position in global raw output emissions bodes well for the country's future ability to set a low-emission example to other nations.

Over the past two years, Australia's projected emissions to 2030 have fallen by 639 million tonnes — the equivalent of taking all 14.7 million cars across the nation off of the road for 15 years.

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