This week came the news that we had discovered how to reduce emissions at a rate needed to get to net-zero by 2050 without imposing an economy wide price on carbon.
All we needed was a worldwide pandemic. Simple.
The lack of activity last year meant our emissions excluding land use fell to 2004 levels.
But while it is good that the pandemic is more under control than it was last year, what this inevitably means is that emissions will again rise. And we know this because this week also came the news that Australia’s GDP is growing solidly.
The sad state of affairs is that, since the end of the carbon price, much that is good for GDP growth is bad for reducing our emissions, and conversely among the things in the GDP figures that were “bad” were good for our task of cutting emissions.
Australian households in the past 12 months spent a stunning $26bn less on transport services than we did in the 12 months to March 2020. Because household spending is a key driver of economic growth that meant our lack of spending on transport cut the national economy by around 1%.
And because there is almost a perfect correlation between the amount spent on transport services and transport emissions, this also meant in the 2020 emissions produced from transport fell 12%.
Before the pandemic the only time annual transport emissions had fallen was in 2013 when they went down a mere 0.9%.
So massive was the fall that although the transport sector only makes up 18% of all emissions, it accounted for almost half of the entire drop in emissions last year.
But we can expect those emissions to start rising back to pre-pandemic levels – indeed in the last three months of last year quarterly transport emissions rose 3.3% – the biggest jump ever recorded.