Australia has been criticised for its determination to consider including so-called “carryover credits” from its reductions under the previous Kyoto agreement in its carbon budget, which would effectively lower its reductions.
Ndevr managing director Matt Drum said he expects to see a further reduction in emissions in the next quarter because Australia did not start shutting down its economy until part-way through March.
A further reduction might put Australia on track to reach Paris targets, said Mr Drum, “but you can’t let the coronavirus be a substitute for an energy policy,” he said.
The reduction in emissions from different sectors of the economy varied as pandemic shutdowns played out in different ways.
Electricity use fell by just 4.5 per cent in March in the nation’s largest energy market compared to the previous March as consumers kept using power while at working from home, said Mr Drum.
Similarly, diesel use in April was 10 per cent lower than the previous April as transportation of goods continued as the pandemic struck, but use of petrol for small vehicles fell by 43 per cent as commuters stayed home.
In April, use of aviation fuel in Australia was 80 per cent lower than the previous April, a reduction roughly equivalent to taking 662,000 cars off the road for 12 months, according to the Ndevr analysis.
Governments should be using the crisis to cap and reduce carbon emissions, making 2019 the year that they peaked, the International Energy Agency said in a recovery plan earlier this month. The IEA is the world’s leading multinational energy policy advisor.
But the Australian government had not put forward any policies that would lock in any reductions seen as a result of the pandemic, said Carbon Market Institute chief executive John Connor.
He said not only was Australia not on track to meet its Paris commitments, those commitments were inadequate and in line with a catastrophic 3 degree warming outcome.
Mr Drum said there was no reason to expect significant reductions to remain after the pandemic due to any policy shifts, although many commuters might opt to work from home more often.
Nick O’Malley is National Environment and Climate Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. He is also a senior writer and a former US correspondent.