Australia’s domestic non-electric transport emissions have increased steadily since 1990 and show no signs of slowing down, let alone declining (latest data at the time of writing is up to June 2018). Source: Charting Transport
Australia’s domestic non-electric transport emissions have increased steadily since 1990 and show no signs of slowing down, let alone declining (latest data at the time of writing is up to June 2018). Source: Charting Transport

Whether it’s claiming that Australia will meet its Paris Climate Agreements “in a canter”, or releasing a one-page electric vehicle strategy with no actual details, one thing is sure: the LNP is just plain wrong about Australia’s climate progress.

So wrong that 28 scientists got together earlier this week to put the Australian public right: Australia is not on track to meet its 2030 GHG emissions targets, nor are those targets even sufficient to avoid irreversible climate change.

As signatory and Climate Councillor Greg Bourne pointed out on Monday morning to ABC Radio, the fact of the matter is that the misrepresentation by the LNP is “unbelievably misleading”.

“Anyone who goes into the data sets, and they’re really quite easy to look at, with some very nice graphs, show emissions rising ever since, basically, the Abbott government came in,” he said.

As so succinctly put by Sophie Vorrath in Renew Economy on Monday, “What we are getting instead looks rather like investment support for coal.”

Or petrol, or diesel, or oil. It all amounts to the same.

While the focus on Monday was mostly on the energy sector, which is by and large the biggest contributor to Australia’s climbing carbon emissions, there is of course another major contributing sector: transport.

According to the federal government’s own National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, domestic transport emissions account for 70 per cent of liquid fuels consumed in Australia.

Public transport expert Chris Loader has been tracking those emissions through his blog “Charting Transport“, using public domain transport data and giving rise to the opportunity to deliver some more truth: that Australia’s transport emissions have been contributing to the rise in carbon emissions, in a very significant way.

While he has indeed compiled many very nice graphs, we have selected four of the most damning:

Exhibit #1: Australia’s transport emissions are steadily growing

Passenger cars are the largest contributor to Australia’s overall emissions, followed by light commercial vehicles and trucks. Overseas aviation is not included in the data, which is only available to 2016 at the time of writing (this graph was published in December 2018).

Source: Charting Transport
Source: Charting Transport

Exhibit #2: All forms of transport contribute to increasing transport-based carbon emissions, except marine

Contribution to carbon emissions by domestic aviation has grown the fastest, followed by buses. Passenger cars have increased by 27 per cent and remain the largest contributor.

Source: Charting Transport
Source: Charting Transport

Exhibit #3: Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland are the biggest offenders

Sorry folks, we know you guys have very long distances to travel! Congratulations however go to Queensland for paving the way for zero emissions transport with its Electric Super Highway EV charging network, and big hands clap to the ACT, which has been working steadily towards reducing transport emissions with policies like promising 100 per cent of its fleet vehicles will be zero emissions starting 2020-21.

Source: Charting Transport
Source: Charting Transport

Exhibit #4: While per capita GHG emissions have been reducing, car ownership has been growing

OK this is actually two graphs. but it goes to show: while per capita, transport-based emissions have been reducing, the overall numbers are still on the rise, at least in part because of growing numbers of people owning cars.

Technical note: Motor Vehicle Census data (currently conducted in January each year) has been interpolated to produce June estimates for each year. Source: Charting Transport
Technical note: Motor Vehicle Census data (currently conducted in January each year) has been interpolated to produce June estimates for each year. Source: Charting Transport

 

Source: Charting Transport
Source: Charting Transport

“Of course if we are to avoid dangerous climate change, total emissions need to reduce substantially, not just per capita emissions!” writes Loader.

And therein lies the rub; we are doing something, but even if it’s only on a personal level, it’s just not enough.

Per capita reductions are not a measure we can refer to: if Australia is to truly meet – and dare we say, exceed – its carbon reduction targets, it needs to be overall, and the transport sector has an important role to play.

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