Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions increased in the last year, according to new data.

A quarterly update of the national greenhouse gas inventory says there was an 0.8 per cent increase in emissions in 2021, equal to 4.1 million tonnes more than the same period in 2020.

Increased emissions were partly a result of the transport sector rebounding from COVID-19 restrictions and agriculture recovering from drought, the report says.

But an absence of climate policy during the former coalition government’s nine years in power also contributed, Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen said.

He accused the coalition of relying on COVID and drought to “bank” emissions reductions.

“Their failure … undermines the great strides in emissions reduction made through household solar, the Renewable Energy Target and state-based renewable schemes in the electricity sector over recent years,” he said on Monday.

“Good climate and energy policy is good economic policy. It doesn’t rely on recession and drought for short-term and temporary emissions reduction.”

In the previous quarter to December 2021, national emission levels increased by 0.1 per cent.

But those increases were partially offset by decreases across sectors such as electricity, transport and land use, land use change and forestry, the report found.

Despite the increase in emissions, Labor frontbencher Jason Clare said the government’s climate target of a 43 per cent reduction by the end of the decade would be met.

“We’ve made that commitment, and we’ll implement policies to get us there,” he told reporters in Adelaide.

“We need sensible action, which is going to create jobs and cut emissions, that’s what we will do as a government.”

Mr Clare said the investment in greater renewable energy would help reduce emissions as well as lower power bills.

“You need to replace over time those old power stations with new forms of energy,” he said.

“The cheapest new form of energy is renewable energy, it also happens to be the cleanest form of energy as well.”

Greenhouse gas emissions were 21.4 per cent below June 2005 levels, which was the baseline year for the 2030 Paris Agreement target, Mr Bowen said.

“The Albanese government has committed to a more ambitious 2030 target, to reduce emissions to 43 per cent below 2005 levels and finally put Australia on track to achieve net zero emissions by 2050,” he said.

Maeve Bannister and Andrew Brown
(Australian Associated Press)

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