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Control of Greenhouse Gases Emissions in Australia to Meet the Paris Agreement Target

1437 words (6 pages) Essay in Environmental Studies

08/02/20 Environmental Studies Reference this

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1.   Introduction

The world’s population is urbanising more rapidly. As cities grow, so do their energy demands, and it has been growing ever since the Industrial revolution. Since, most of the energy is sourced from fossil fuel, Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions occur (Christopher Kennedy 2009). GHGs absorb the infrared radiation from the sun and warms up the atmosphere. This is necessary as without GHGs, the earth would be too cold to sustain life (Max Roser 2017). Common GHGs include Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and Carbon Dioxide.

Normally, CO2 levels in the atmosphere are regulated by various processes which form the “global carbon cycle” (US Energy Information Administration 2018). These processes are able to absorb some of the manmade GHGs. However, emissions after 1950s started going beyond the capacity of these natural processes and disrupted the global carbon cycle. This led to a rise in global average temperature (Max Roser 2017). GHG emissions today, are 150 times higher than in the mid-19th century (Johannes Friedrich 2014). Figure 1 below shows the rise in global temperatures since the mid-19th century. 

The impact a greenhouse gas has on global warming depends on the following important factors:

      Abundance (Lallanilla 2019)

      Residence time (Lallanilla 2019)

      Global warming potential (GWP) (Lallanilla 2019)

The most common GHG is CO2. Although, it’s GWP is the lowest (CO2 is used as the benchmark for calculating GWP of other gases), CO2 is the most abundant in the atmosphere and its residence time is quite long; around 1000 years (Lallanilla 2019). Methane on the other hand has a much smaller residence time of 10 years and less abundant, although it traps heat more efficiently (Lallanilla 2019). The following graph shows the emissions of various GHGs including CO2 from 1960 to 2014:

It can be seen that CO2 is emitted the most. The one’s with the highest GWP are emitted the least, hence their contribution to Global warming is negligible while CO2’s contribution to global warming is the highest.

Global warming has resulted in melting of polar ice caps which lead to a rise in sea level. Since 1993, the rise in sea level has been at 3.1 mm per year (British Geological Survey 2019).

1.1.          The Paris agreement and its significance

On the 12th of December 2015, various countries signed an agreement to combat global warming and to take steps towards sustainable development (Nations 2019). Depending on the circumstances of different countries, each country will do the best it can to combat global warming. The Paris agreement replaced the previous Kyoto Protocol (Rattani 2017).

Unlike the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement allows the countries to chose their own climate commitments (Rattani 2017). It requires industrialised nations to lead the GHG emission reduction movement. It also requires developed countries to provide financial and technological assistance to less developed nations to achieve their climate targets (Rattani 2017). 

The agreement also calls for a review of the mitigation and other climate efforts of each nation, to be carried out in 2023. This is known as the “Global Stocktake” (Rattani 2017).

1.2.          Target(s) of the Paris agreement 

According to the article 2 of the agreement, the aim  is to restrict the average global temperature rise to “below 2oC” above the temperature of pre-industrial revolution era (Power 2017). Although 2oC doesn’t sound significant, it is enough to cause heavy strain on energy and food production (SIMON-LEWIS 2017). It is also claimed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that a rise of more than 2oC will significantly increase the number of extreme weather events (Power 2017).

The Paris agreement also aims to increase the support towards developing countries on order to achieve the “2oC” target.

1.3.          Aim of this report

This report will explore the current GHG emission levels of Australia, the targets that Australia has set for itself and the strategies it has put in place to meet the Paris Agreement. Australia’s emission reduction strategies will also be compared and benchmarked with those of other countries.

2.   Greenhouse gas emissions in Australia

2.1.          Current greenhouse gas emissions

According to (Mark Ludlow 2019), there was a 0.9% rise in Australia’s GHG emissions, which translates to 4.6 Million tonnes. Mining and manufacturing are the two areas which contributed to this increase, despite a reduction in emissions from the electricity sector and the agricultural sector (Mark Ludlow 2019). The following graphs from the Department of Environment and Energy shows the percentage contribution of each sector to the GHG emissions as of September 2018:

As can be seen from the charts above, electricity generation remained the most significant contributor to GHG emissions for over a decade, although their contributions have reduced due to ongoing renewable energy initiatives (Cox 2019). As of 2019, Australia contributes to 1.3% of the world’s total GHG emissions (Environmental Protection Authority 2019).

2.2.          Australia’s target on greenhouse gas emission reduction

By 2030, Australia plans to bring down GHG emissions to 26-28% below the levels of the year 2005 (Australian Government 2015), which translates to a 64% reduction of emissions per unit of GDP, or around 441-453 million Mt. CO2-e (ASBEC 2019). Between 2010 and 2020, this would need an annual reduction rate of 0.9% and 1.6-1.9% annually between 2020 and 2030 (ASBEC 2019).

3.   Bibliography

  • ASBEC. 2019. Australia’s 2030 Emission Reduction Target. https://www.asbec.asn.au/news-items/australias-2030-emission-reduction-target/.
  • Australian Government. 2015. “Australia’s 2030.” https://www.environment.gov.au/. https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/f8f337c2-2d58-4d70-a1fd-acc71254a137/files/factsheet-2030-emissions-reduction-target.pdf.
  • British Geological Survey . 2019. What causes the man-made greenhouse effect? Accessed may 04, 2019. https://www.bgs.ac.uk/discoveringGeology/climateChange/CCS/man-madeEffect.html.
  • Christopher Kennedy, Julia Steinberger, Barbie gasson. 2009. “Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Global Cities.” https://pubs-acs-org. 21 January. https://pubs-acs-org.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/doi/pdf/10.1021/es900213p.
  • Cox, Lisa. 2019. Australia’s annual carbon emissions reach record high. 14 March. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/mar/14/australias-annual-carbon-emissions-reach-record-high.
  • Environmental Protection Authority. 2019. “Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” http://www.epa.wa.gov.au/. http://www.epa.wa.gov.au/sites/default/files/Policies_and_Guidance/20190306%20EPA%20Greenhouse%20Gas%20Emissions%20-%203.pdf.
  • Johannes Friedrich, Thomas Damassa. 2014. The History of Carbon Dioxide Emissions. 21 may. Accessed May 4, 2019. https://www.wri.org/blog/2014/05/history-carbon-dioxide-emissions.
  • Lallanilla, Marc. 2019. Greenhouse Gasses: Causes, Sources and Environmental Effects. 3 January. Accessed May 4, 2019. https://www.livescience.com/37821-greenhouse-gases.html.
  • Mark Ludlow, Ben Potter. 2019. Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. February. https://www.afr.com/news/politics/australias-greenhouse-gas-emissions-continue-to-rise-20190228-h1bum1.
  • Max Roser, Hannah Ritchie. 2017. CO₂ and other Greenhouse Gas Emissions. May. Accessed May 4, 2019. https://ourworldindata.org/co2-and-other-greenhouse-gas-emissions.
  • Nations, United. 2019. What is the Paris Agreement? Accessed May 04, 2019. https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/what-is-the-paris-agreement.
  • Power, Sophie. 2017. “Paris climate agreement: a quick guide.” https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au. Accessed May 6, 2019. https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/library/prspub/5623378/upload_binary/5623378.pdf.
  • Rattani, Vijeta. 2017. Importance of staying in the Paris Agreement. 2 June. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/importance-of-staying-in-the-paris-agreement-57988.
  • SIMON-LEWIS, ALEXANDRA. 2017. What is the Paris climate agreement and who has signed it? 7 November. https://www.wired.co.uk/article/what-is-paris-agreement-on-climate-change.
  • US Energy Information Administration. 2018. Greenhouse Gases’ Effect on the Climate. 20 July. Accessed May 4, 2019. https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.php?page=environment_how_ghg_affect_climate.
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