Greg Hunt. Photo: ABC

2 October 2013 – Environment Minister Greg Hunt has misled the Australian public on his claims that emissions went up with the carbon tax and that this proved the tax was ineffective, an ABC  Fact Check report said on Wednesday.

Mr Hunt has said that under the carbon price emissions have actually increased. In an interview with Lateline last week he quoted figures to back up the claim. And he repeated the claim in an opinion piece in The Australian Financial Review on Monday.

“The strange thing about the carbon tax was that emissions went up, not down, from 560 to 637 million tonnes,” Mr Hunt said.

The ABC report said:

He was unequivocal. The carbon price “doesn’t work”, “doesn’t do the job” and is “a just hopeless means of achieving the outcome,” he said during the interview.

“On the one hand, electricity prices go up as the tax soars towards $38 on the ALP’s own modelling. On the other hand, emissions increase from 561 million to 637 million tonnes by 2020 in Australia during the life of the carbon tax.”

According to the ABC Fact Check, Mr Hunt failed to acknowledge that  emissions would go up further if a carbon price wasn’t in place.

“Mr Hunt’s claim is misleading,” the report said.

A spokesman for the minister said Mr Hunt’s numbers came from a 2012 report by the Climate Change Department. But the report finds that without the carbon price, emissions would be 8 per cent higher in 2020.

“Mr Hunt has used modelling predicting an outcome in seven years’ time to say the carbon price as it stands today is not effective. The figures are projections, not fact, and cannot be used to make a point about emissions rising over the 15 months the carbon price has been on the books.

The most recent official data on emissions from the Climate Change Department is for December 2012, which covers the first six months of the carbon price.

At the end of 2012, total annual carbon emissions stood at 552 million tonnes, around the same as at the end of 2011.

In further omissions, the minister does not note that not all emissions are targeted by the carbon price.

The government’s Clean Energy Regulator says the carbon price applies to about 60 per cent of Australia’s emissions. Electricity generation, stationary energy combustion, landfills, wastewater, industrial processes and fugitive emissions are all covered but transport, agriculture and other waste aren’t. You can read more about what those categories cover here.

In the first six months of the carbon price, emissions from the sectors covered by the carbon price were 1 per cent lower than the same period the year before.

The Climate Change Department report says the fall was largely due to a decline in emissions from electricity. This sector is particularly significant as it accounted for 35 per cent of Australia’s carbon emissions in 2012. Between December 2011 and December 2012, electricity emissions dropped around 10 million tonnes. This was a fall of 7 per cent.

The ABC said cited The Climate Institute, which says the carbon price is making renewable energy – like solar and wind power – more competitive with fossil-fuel generation.

A report by ClimateWorks Australia, another research body whose website says it is “committed to catalysing reduction in greenhouse gas emissions”, identifies rising energy costs and the carbon price as key drivers behind decreases in carbon emissions.

Consulting firm AECOM surveyed how business owners and managers reacted to the new regime. Thirty-nine per cent of respondents said the carbon price had affected investment decisions. Thirty per cent said it had affected contractual decisions and 17 per cent said it had affected decisions about staff and employment.

The carbon price is just 15 months old. For a policy with long-term goals, this is a short period of time. But early indications suggest the carbon price is having an impact.

The verdict

Mr Hunt based his claim on modelling for the year 2020. He failed to mention that the same modelling projects emissions would go up further if a carbon price wasn’t in place. Mr Hunt’s claim is misleading.

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