Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions have barely changed over the past year as climate change again consumes debate in Canberra.
The federal government’s latest report on greenhouse gas emissions shows national levels remained the same in the September period compared to the previous quarter.
National emissions fell just 0.3 per cent in the year.
This was caused by more renewables in the electricity sector, the effect of drought in agriculture and a slight drop in petrol use.
But it was nearly entirely outweighed by growth in other areas, such as fugitive emissions as well as land use and forestry.
The data comes amid another round of climate change debate as political parties trade blows over emissions.
Through the Paris agreement the Morrison government has signed Australia up to net zero emissions in the second half of the century.
Despite this the government has gone on the attack after Labor reaffirmed its commitment to a net zero emissions target by 2050, without detailing costings or economic modelling.
Net zero emissions means all greenhouse gas emissions are balanced out through methods to remove them from the atmosphere.
Australian business and industry groups, along with all the states and territories and more than 70 other countries, support such a target by 2050.
But Energy Minister Angus Taylor has raised concerns about how the policy could undermine jobs and living standards.
“What we are not going to do is have a target that is unfunded, uncosted and unplanned,” Mr Taylor said on Monday.
Labor deputy leader Richard Marles countered the argument by questioning the cost of inaction on climate change.
“If you want to see the cost of not acting, you only need to look at the drought that’s been endured by this country over the last few years and of course the terrible summer that we have just experienced,” he said.
Nationals frontbencher Michelle Landry is concerned Labor’s pollution plan extends to farmers and miners.
Greens leader Adam Bandt fears pursuing net zero emissions by 2050 could be too late.
Mr Bandt has introduced a new bill to make coal, oil and gas companies pay for the damage their products have caused Australians, just as asbestos and tobacco firms have done in the past.
His legislation would make fossil fuel companies liable for environmental damage, and pave the way for damage payments to survivors of the recent bushfires.
Meanwhile, a new report from the Energy Security Board has found the national electricity system was stretched to near-breaking point over summer.
The board is concerned the rapid uptake of renewables is putting pressure on the grid and wants more hydro electricity, battery storage and gas.
Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie also introduced a private members’ bill on Monday, aimed at improving the transparency of carbon emissions accounting.