Truth About Carbon Emissions

The Emissions Reduction Fund is the centrepiece of the Australian Government’s Direct Action Plan. The Emissions Reduction Fund will work together with other incentives under the Direct Action Plan and the Renewable Energy Target to help Australia meet its target of reducing emissions by five per cent below 2000 levels by 2020.

So says the federal government's Department of the Environment at this page. Many experts are saying it's going to be a tall order to achieve these very modest reductions to greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

Why "very modest"?

Because Australia is not being honest with itself. BLACK COAL EXPORTS.

The Unaccounted Damage From Coal Exports

It is hardly anything to be proud of by exporting a product that is a main contributor to global warming, but according to this article, Australia’s coal exports in 2013-14 are on track to be 350 million tonnes - and this would generate approximately 836 Mt CO2-e.

This is a staggering export of what ultimately becomes a global problem. And for what gain? 

Australia’s last reported CO2-e emissions (2011, National Greenhouse Gas Inventory) was 563,140,000 tonnes (i.e. 563 Mt).

Australia’s TOTAL ATTRIBUTED CO2 -e EMISSIONS is therefore more like 1,400 Million tonnes

But it would be more than that when fugitive emissions and all other emissions from mining and transport and associated industries are accounted for.

But There's More!

Is Australia being honest? Absolutely not!

Emissions from natural gas exports are not accounted for.

In some of the more recent figures available, Australia exported 25.53 billion cubic metres of natural gas in 2011. 


Now let's look at the conversion in the table below.


By my reckoning, 25,530 million cubic metres of natural gas would generate 51.06 million tonnes of CO2 (In the table above, 2 kg of CO2 per metric tonne of "Natural Gas"). This is nowhere near the CO2 emissions that are exported from black (thermal) coal - 836 Mt CO2-e.

Adding these together, and Australia exports approximately 890 Mt CO2-e annually

And it is rising, as exports continue to grow.

The Truth About Carbon Emissions


There is only one reason why Australia has expanded fossil mineral mining, and that is profit

It is the great dilemma of our times - fossil mineral exploration and mining. Whether it’s methane hydrates in the Tundra, oil in the Arctic and Antarctic, tar sands in Canada, gas fracking everywhere. 

This is the dilemma for nations - when to STOP!

The best climate science in the world says that there has to be a retreat from using fossil minerals, and it has to happen quickly. The great challenge for global economies is which of the largest is going to lead the way.

Which of the big miners is going to lead the way and stop fossil mineral extractions? 

Which nation will be the first to commit unequivocally to a rapid pathway of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% or more within the next 30 years?

There is scant evidence today that any of these major strategies has even begun.

Let's go back to the other costs of coal mining.

Social & Environmental Costs Of Coal Mining

In Australia, based on this US government report, the estimated Social Cost Of Carbon of just one year of Australia's coal exports is anywhere between $11 billion and $103 billion annually.

Compare this cost range with the expected $41.5 billion in coal export revenue for 2013-2014, and the costs could outweigh the income.

But has any assessment been done by Australian governments on the Social & Environmental Costs Of Carbon Emissions? I'm still searching.

The cost of the damage is not factored into the price of coal. This is precisely the reason for having a tax or a cost on carbon emissions, so that these funds can be used for reconfiguring the mining economy, an economy that will, one day, become terminal.

It is also the reason why Australia and its trading countries must include a social and environmental cost on coal.

In my submission on the EMISSIONS REDUCTION FUND GREEN PAPER I recommended that the ERF (the one that the government wants to make law) needs to account for the global damage wrought by Australia’s coal exports.

But remember, the federal government doesn't want a Carbon Tax or a carbon price.

If it doesn’t price all greenhouse gas emissions, then the ERF will fall very short of Australia meeting its international obligations, including those under the Kyoto Protocol.

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