Greg Hunt: 'Emissions peaked 10 years' ago'

Issue 
Greg Hunt, minister for making false claims about the environment.

Experts have laughed at a prediction by the environment minister Greg Hunt that Australia's greenhouse gas emissions peaked 10 years ago.

Hunt told the ABC's AM program: “I believe that we have reached what is sometimes known as peak emissions. In my best judgment … we reached peak emissions in 2005-06 ... and the course of history to come for Australia is that we will continue to be below that figure.”

Experts have laughed at a prediction by the environment minister Greg Hunt that Australia's greenhouse gas emissions peaked 10 years ago.

Hunt told the ABC's AM program: “I believe that we have reached what is sometimes known as peak emissions. In my best judgment … we reached peak emissions in 2005-06 ... and the course of history to come for Australia is that we will continue to be below that figure.”

But climate experts predict Australia's emissions will almost certainly rise over the next decade under current policies, which do not put limits on emission increases from industry, electricity generation or land-clearing.

Executive director of Reputex Hugh Grossman said the government's own data showed Australia's emissions would continue to grow and that “there is no peak in sight”. He said the latest government figures showed emissions were growing again and that “Australia's emissions growth rate is projected to be among the highest of all developed countries”.

Chief executive of the Climate Institute John Connor said: “These are extraordinary comments by Greg Hunt given the enormous credibility gap in the government's current policies.

“Australia's emissions have been rising for the past two years, land clearing is escalating in Queensland and New South Wales, there are big question marks over the future of the emissions reduction fund and we have a wet lettuce safeguards policy and no limits on coal-fired electricity generation. The safeguards policy is supposed to stop increases in industrial emissions but actually imposes very few limitations.

“We can see no reason for the government to have any confidence at all that emissions have peaked. We can see no reason for any confidence that they will decline under this government's current policies.”

The Climate Council's Will Steffen said: “Emissions from the electricity sector, the largest source of emissions, jumped 3% in the 2014-15 year. There is no clear evidence for a peak in fossil fuel emissions when other sources of emissions, such as transport and industrial processes, are included.”

He said using a reduction in land emissions as basis for claiming a peak in overall emissions was very misleading.

“There is no time to waste. Every year that we don't significantly reduce fossil fuel emissions matters. We have an extremely limited carbon budget now, and Australia is rapidly blowing its budget while fiddling at the edges with land carbon," he said.

“We cannot solve climate change through questionable carbon accounting that hides increases in fossil fuel emissions."

The Climate Council's Tim Flannery said: “We've got global temperature records tumbling left and right and our Great Barrier Reef is under imminent threat of yet another coral bleaching event.

“In the face of such disconcerting data, we've got a minister who is ignoring the increase in fossil fuel emissions and is still insisting that Australia's doing a tip-top job of tackling climate change.

“Making a claim that isn't backed up by the facts and then repeating it a thousand times in the hopes it will make it true is not an effective approach to climate change policy,” Flannery concluded.

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