Tracking Progress Towards a Low Carbon Economy

Commercial building construction

ClimateWorks launched its major research project: Tracking Progress Towards a Low Carbon Economy at Federation Square in Melbourne on 31 July 2013.  The research shows Australia has made significant progress towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building a low carbon economy.

Tracking Progress is the first whole-of-economy report on Australia’s progress in reducing emissions.  It covers key sectors – Power, Industry, Buildings, Land-use and Waste, as well as a Special Report on factors affecting energy efficiency activity for 47 large industrial companies that account for 70 per cent of Australia’s industrial energy use. 

A series of reports providing key findings of the research have been released.  The full reports - and their corresponding summary reports - are available for download on the right hand side of this page. 

The reports include:

NATIONAL PROGRESS REPORT

ClimateWorks research has found an increase in activity to improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the last decade across all sectors of the economy studied.  This was led by reduced deforestation and an increase in plantation forests, significant increases in industry energy efficiency and more recently sharp reductions in power emissions.  Over the next decade, Australia’s emissions reductions would be led by reductions in power emissions intensity and continued energy efficiency in industry and buildings.

From 2002-03 to 2011-12, there has been no growth in greenhouse gas emissions despite an increase in economic growth of 31 per cent over the same period.  The research showed that if recent trends are sustained, Australia would achieve over 40 per cent of the minimum 5 per cent national emissions reduction target by 2020 through domestic abatement alone.   

Presentation: Introduction to Tracking Progress and Key Findings Anna Skarbek (Executive Director)

Presentation: Further Key Findings Amandine Denis (Head of Research)

POWER

The Power Report shows the emissions intensity of Australia’s grid-supplied electricity generation decreased by 8 per cent from 2008-09 to 2012-13 with strong reductions in coal generation.  Total emissions have decreased by 13 per cent over the same period.  Looking forward to 2020, there is a strong pipeline of renewable energy projects and a slow down of the energy demand growth trend.  This could deliver 32 per cent of the available emissions reduction potential in this sector as identified in the Low Carbon Growth Plan for Australia.

Presentation: Power Wei Sue (Business Analyst)

The Supplementary Analysis: grid-supplied electricity scenarios factsheet illustrates possible outcomes under different demand scenarios, examining what would happen to emissions if there was a significant increase or decrease in electricity demand compared to what is currently expected between now and 2020.

INDUSTRY

The Industry Report shows industrial process emissions have been substantially reduced, industrial energy efficiency has tripled compared to historic levels, and there has been more self-generation of electricity using gas. This has led to an estimated 10 per cent improvement in industrial emissions intensity, which has been offset by large increases in production.  If recent trends in the improvement of industrial emissions intensity continue, this would offset a portion of the strong expected growth in emissions that could result from increasing industrial production. The current trend would deliver 57 per cent of available emissions reduction potential in this sector.

Presentation: Industry Wei Sue and Rob Kelly (Business Analysts)

BUILDINGS

The Buildings Report shows the energy intensity of Australia’s buildings has decreased by 3 per cent between 2002-03 and 2010-11, led by improvements in the operation of buildings, improved energy efficiency standards, more efficient appliances and distributed energy.  However, these improvements have been offset by additional buildings and increased use of electricity by electronics in homes.   Despite strong growth in the number of homes and commercial buildings over the next decade, a continuation of recent trends in emissions reduction activities would drive a further reduction in buildings emissions.  The current trend would deliver 30 per cent of the available emissions reduction potential in this sector.

Presentation: Buildings Emma Lucia (Business Analyst)

LAND-USE & WASTE

The Land-Use & Waste Report shows the annual area deforested has halved since 2003 and the total area of plantations has increased by 21 per cent over the decade.  These emissions reductions have completely offset growth in all other sectors since 2002-03. However, over the next decade, emissions from land-use are likely to increase substantially as plantation forests are harvested and not replanted and there are no further reductions in deforestation.  Emissions reduction activity is expected to be limited to 8 per cent of the total identified potential. Most of the potential for future activity to reduce emissions from land-use and waste activities is dependent on certainty of future revenues from government initiatives.  

Presentation: Land-Use & Waste Rob Kelly (Business Analyst)

SPECIAL REPORT 

The Special Report on factors influencing large industrial energy efficiency involved in-depth interviews with 47 large industrial companies that account for 70 per cent of Australia’s industrial energy use.  The report found that rising fuel prices, the carbon price, the Australian Government’s Energy Efficiency Opportunities (EEO) program and organisational changes have been the main reported drivers leading respondents to increase their energy efficiency activity in recent years. It also found that respondents with better internal practices in certain key areas demonstrate higher implementation of energy efficiency activity.

Presentation: Special Report Paris Nichols (Business Analyst)

TECHNICAL APPENDICES

The Technical Appendices provide an overview of the approach undertaken for ClimateWorks' research "Tracking Australia's Progress Towards a Low Carbon Economy". These appendices detail the methodology and major assumptions used in quantifying the emissions implications of emissions reduction activities in each sector covered by the study.