Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Victoria cut emissions by 29.8% on 2005 levels by 2020. There is a pathway to decarbonisation by 2035 to meet 1.5C target.

The Victorian Premier, Dan Andrews, announced on 20 September that Victoria Smashes Emissions Targets. Victoria achieved a 29.8 per cent emissions cut on 2005 levels up to and including 2020. Victoria had set an Emissions Reduction Target of 15 to 20 per cent reduction by 2020.

Last year i reported that Victoria reduced emissions by 24.8%, on track for 45-50% reduction by 2030

The Andrews Government rebuilt Victoria's Climate Act and set a number of interim targets. 

Energy was the top sector that needed to start the decarbonisation transition process, and the Andrews Government has tackled this with growing renewables and energy storage as a proportion of our electricity production.

Victoria’s energy sector is still the state’s largest source of emissions, but continues to see deep cuts made due to the rapid upscaling of renewable energy. The sector saw renewable electricity production increase from 21.7% of total electricity generation in 2019 to 24.8% in 2020.

Forests continue to play a major role in carbon sequestration (negative emissions) with Victoria’s native forests continue to act as a crucial carbon sink, sequestering a quarter of Victoria’s emissions in 2019-20. Victoria has set a 2030 target to phase out native logging. Bringing forward this date could see continued high rates of carbon sequestration, as well as having several beneficial impacts in Melbourne's water supply and preserving threatened ecosystems and species.

The transport sector is the second-largest source of emissions at 25 per cent. Transport emissions fell in 2020, due to the COVID-19 lockdowns. Vehicle use has likely picked up since 2020 and addressing transport emissions needs to be a priority area.

The state government has already outlined $100 million package to support uptake of Electric Vehicles, and has set a 2030 target for half of all light vehicle sales in Victoria to be zero emissions vehicles. But transition to electric vehicles is not enough and will not resolve continued congestion and abrasive particulate pollution in urban areas. 

More planning and investment is needed for urban areas in public transport and active (walking and cycling) transport. Our neighbour to the north, New South Wales, appears to be leading the way with active transport, designating an Active Transport Minister with a five year budget of $980 million. In comparison Victoria spent just $23 million in the current financial year directly on cycling infrastructure.

Improvements to Fast trains to regional towns is needed to enhance a shift to the regions by parts of the workforce. And planning is needed for the Victorian leg of a High Speed Train to Albury as part of an East Coast Rail Network. This will decrease need to expand Melbourne Airport and the generation of high intensity domestic aviation emissions (presently at 6.5% of transport emissions), and very difficult to decarbonise.

On the raw data Frirnds of the Earth advise that:

"Modelling based on the latest dataset shows that by maintaining the current rate of emissions reductions (2010-20) on a straight-line trajectory:

  • The Victorian government is on track to significantly exceed its Emissions Reduction Target of a 45-50 percent cut (below 2005 levels) by 2030. 
  • On the straight-line trajectory, Victoria would achieve a 54 percent emissions reduction by 2025 and 79 percent reduction by 2030. These emissions reductions represent a new baseline.
  • The legislated target of net-zero emissions by 2050 could be achieved in mid-2034 on this trajectory — over 16 years ahead of schedule. This means Victoria’s emissions reduction would be inline with a 1.5°C carbon budget."
14 Graphs explaining the Victorian emissions reduction

What follows are 14 graphs from the report explaining the trend in emissions in different sectors. Please see the report for further data and graphs.

The reduction in emissions since 2010 has ocurred while the Gross State Product and Population have both grown.

Total net emissions and emissions by sector – Victoria, 1990 to 2020

Figure 4 shows the series from 1990 to 2020 for each sector combined as a total with a net emissions line.

Change in Emissions from 2019 to 2020

"Between 2019 and 2020, Victoria’s emissions declined by 5.8%. This was mainly driven by falling emissions in electricity generation (2.2 Mt CO2-e), transport (1.9 Mt CO2-e), fuel combustion (0.2 Mt CO2-e), fugitive emissions from fuels (0.2 Mt CO2-e) and increased sequestration from the LULUCF sector (1.2 Mt CO2-e) (Figure 6). The main drivers behind these reductions were a decrease in coal-fired generation, an increase in renewable electricity production (from 21.7% of total electricity generation in 2019 to 24.8% in 2020) (DELWP 2021) and reduced transport activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic."

Figure 9 shows the per capita emissions compared to other states and territories. Victoria at 12.4 tonnes CO2e,  is now behind Tasmania and the ACT in emissions. 

Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions by gas type and sector, 2020

Figure 13 shows  Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions by gas type and sector, 2020. Reducing carbon dioxide in energy and transport is very important. Methane as a very strong, but short lived greenhouse gas is important to reduce in Waste (landfills) and in agriculture. As Victoria has little mining, fugitive emissions of methane from fossil fuel extraction is minor. Agriculture, waste and fossil fuel extration all need their own sectorial plans for reducing methane emissions. For agriculture this will probably entail fast tracking seaweed supplements to livestock to reduce methane from ruminants.

Comparing Emissions by sectors for 1990, 2005, 2020

Europe takes its baseline for emissions reduction as 1990, while Australia adopted a much later baseline date of 2005. Important to compare our emissions  in different sectors for these dates to give a long term perspective. Elictricity generation emissions are now slightly below the level from 1990, but it is the area we have reduced the most in recent years. Land Use, Land use change and forestry have also changed from being positive emissions to net negative. Transport emissions over the last 30 years has been increasing, and highlights this area needs to be tackled at State. Local and Federal Government levels. Tackling transport emissions needs to be broadened from transition to EVs to encouraging public transport growth and Active transport. Agricultural emissions will be difficult to reduce, but a focus on methane reduction might assist.

Figure 16 shows the Change in emissions between 2005 and 2020 by sector and sub-sector, Victoria

Figure 19: Fuel combustion emissions by activity sub-categories – Victoria, 2020

This chart highlights that residential users are by far the biggest group in fuel combustion at 38.7 per cent. This would be in the use of gas heaters, gas hot water systems, gas ovens and cooktops. Domestic gas users, whether homeowners or landlords, can have an important impact in transitioning away from gas appliances to electrify all household appliances. Business users can also be effective in phasing out gas in electrifying manufacturing processes.

Figure 24 shows a breakdown in Transport emissions by sub-categories – Victoria, 2020

While vehicle transport needs to be tackled at 89.5 per cent of total transport emissions, there needs to be multiple plans to reduce these emissions. Transition to EV for private cars, light and commercial vehicles and heavy duty trucks and buses are all important, but not enough of themselves. 

For urban areas it is equally important to get behaviour change for greater use of public transport and active transport. This requires making public transport, walking and cycling safer and more convenient. Electrifying the bus fleet is one area the State Government can progress rapidly. Aviation will be a very difficult area to decarbonise. Expansion of Melbourne Airport with a third runway will induce more aviation emissions. Victoria should oppose this expansion and lobby the Federal Government for High Speed Rail network and start planning the Melbourne to Albury leg of this which will help boost regional development.

Figure 27 shows Emissions by transport sub-categories – Victoria, 1990 to 2020

This time series chart underscores the challenge in reducing transport emissions. EV transition is important, as is Federal fuel efficiency standards.

Figure 38 shows Emissions by agriculture category – Victoria, 1990 to 2020


Figure 40 shows Trends in emissions for the four major  agriculture sub-categories – Victoria, 1990 to 2020

The increase in Urea use is troubling. This perhaps adds to Nitrous Oxide emissions, a very powerful greenhouse gas.

"Emissions from agricultural soils grew by 0.6 Mt CO2-e (4.9%) between 1990 and 2020. An expansion of the total area of crop cultivation – particularly for wheat, barley and canola – and associated increases in the application of nitrogen fertilisers, crop residue and animal wastes – were responsible for this growth. The total area of crop cultivation almost doubled, from 1.8 to 3.5 million hectares between 1990 and 2020, while the application of fertilisers increased from just under 50,000 to 328,000 tonnes of nitrogen (an increase of 561%) over this period. This also contributed to a significant increase in urea application emissions which grew nearly seven-fold between 1990 and 2020 (Figure 40), with particularly strong growth in the last decade (DCCEEW 2022a)."

Figure 42 shows Emissions from LULUCF sub-categories – Victoria, 1990 to 2020

The report authors chose to use the IPCC methodology and effectively ignore the 2019/2020 bushfire emissions, treating them as a natural disturbance with carbon sequestration correcting in subsequent years. Yes, this methodology is dodgy when applied to fires of such severetiy, intensity and breadth.

Researchers recently analysed and estimated the extent of the emissions from the 2019/2020 wildfires: 
"The 2019–2020 bushfires burned a total of 112.3 Tg biomass and released 178.6 ± 13.6 Tg CO2 (carbon dioxide), 1.71 ± 1.28 Tg PM2.5 (particulate matter with a diameter <2.5 μm), and 0.061 ± 0.04 Tg BC (black carbon) across eastern and southern Australia. The CO2 emissions are 35% of Australia's greenhouse emissions from all sectors combined in 2020." 
Source: Fangjun Li et al 2021 Environ. Res. Commun. 3 105005, Highly anomalous fire emissions from the 2019–2020 Australian bushfires,

Another study published last year published in Nature found an even higher estimate: "We estimate emissions of carbon dioxide to be 715 teragrams (range 517–867) from November 2019 to January 2020." van der Velde, I.R., van der Werf, G.R., Houweling, S. et al. Vast CO2 release from Australian fires in 2019–2020 constrained by satellite. Nature 597, 366–369 (2021).

It is also thought that Widespread phytoplankton blooms triggered by 2019–2020 Australian wildfires may have taken up much of those emissions. Tang, W., Llort, J., Weis, J. et al. Widespread phytoplankton blooms triggered by 2019–2020 Australian wildfires. Nature 597, 370–375 (2021).

Here is how DELWP explain away these emissions:
"Box 3: Accounting for emissions from the 2019-2020 Eastern Victorian
The summer 2019-20 bushfires burnt over 1.5 million hectares in Victoria, including in East Gippsland LGA (1.1 million hectares), Towong LGA (205,000 hectares) and Alpine LGA (187,000 hectares). The substantial majority of the area burnt was public land and a relatively small proportion was plantation forest  around 7,800 hectares). 
Bushfires initially release significant amounts of carbon dioxide, with the forests then generally recovering over time and generating a significant carbon sink in the years following the fire. For example, within 10 years of the summer 2002-2003 bushfires in the ACT, Victoria and New South Wales more than 98 per cent of forest cover was observed to return, with full recovery of the forest expected to be complete over time (DCCEEW 2020b). 
Consistent with international rules and practice, the ‘natural disturbances’ provision of IPCC greenhouse gas accounting rules is used in reporting net emissions from infrequent, extreme bushfires in temperate forests, which are beyond human control. Under this provision, the long-run trend in carbon stock change in the forests is used, reflecting the balance of the carbon lost in the fire which is re-absorbed by future regrowth. 
The Commonwealth Government will carry out ongoing monitoring of forest regeneration and make adjustments to Victoria’s emissions inventory as needed to ensure it reflects the long run impacts of the bushfires on our emissions and the climate. This monitoring is particularly important given that the historically observed, long-term equilibrium of carbon released and reabsorbed may not continue into the future as climate change results in more frequent and extreme fire weather, and longer fire seasons."

Figure 49 shows Scope 1 plus 2 emissions by economic sector – Victoria, 2020

"Figure 49 shows that in 2020, the residential sector was responsible for the largest share of Scope 1 plus Scope 2 emissions (28.5 Mt CO2-e, 40%), followed by commercial services (15.9 Mt CO2-e, 22%) and manufacturing (15.9 Mt CO2-e, 22%)." This highlights the importance of decarbonising the energy sector for Scope 2 emissions, but also a focus on residential emissions. People have agency in decarbonisation.


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