Australian Government Under Fire for Spinning Carbon Emissions

(Bloomberg) -- Australia’s government is catching flak for how it’s using official data on carbon emissions, as climate change shapes up to be a key issue in elections due by May.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Environment Minister Angus Taylor are boasting of a quarterly decline reported in government data last week, ignoring figures from the same publication that show an overall rise in recent years.

While Morrison and Taylor have been highlighting that carbon emissions in the three months to September fell 1.4 percent quarter-on-quarter, they avoided data that show output has been rising every year since 2015.

Australian Government Under Fire for Spinning Carbon Emissions

For example, Taylor on Sunday insisted in an ABC TV interview that emissions were falling. The ABC’s Barrie Cassidy called him out -- “it’s not what the figures say” -- citing the same report, which showed a 0.9 percent increase over the year to September.

“Angus Taylor has again falsely claimed that Australia’s greenhouse gas pollution levels are falling, despite his government’s own findings showing that they are, in fact, rising,” the Climate Council, an environmental advocacy group, said on Twitter. The quarterly figures are on a seasonally adjusted and weather-normalized basis.

“The fact is, emissions are trending down,” Taylor said in an emailed response late Monday. “Emissions per capita and the emissions intensity of the economy continue to decline, and are at their lowest levels in 29 years.”

Morrison was running with the same narrative on Friday in a separate ABC interview, saying “these numbers do jump around a bit” when pressed on the annual increase.

The center-right government has said it will comfortably meet the country’s Paris Agreement target of a reduction in carbon emissions from 2005 levels of at least 26 percent, but has dropped plans to legislate for that goal. Morrison last week by pledged A$2 billion ($1.4 billion) for a new climate fund and is funding a hydro-power project.

Labor has a more ambitious target to cut emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and has promised A$10 billion in additional funding for the Clean Energy Finance Corp. The ruling Liberal Party has called Labor’s policy ”reckless” and likely to cause significant damage to the economy.

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