A report submitted
for CHEN3007/5022 Fundamentals of Air Pollution Control
Discipline of Chemical Engineering
WA School of Mines: Minerals, Energy and Chemical Engineering
Table of Contents
Background on global greenhouse gases emissions
Human activities worldwide have led to increase in emissions of global greenhouse gases. Atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases have been on the rise as industrialization continue to spread not only in Asian and European countries, but Africa and the Americas as well. The root cause of the adverse climate changes experienced today can be blamed largely on every country since each of them releases greenhouse gases to the atmosphere depicting greenhouse effect as a matter of global concern.
The levels of emissions vary from one country to another and have been influenced by various factors ranging from economic activities, land use, population, income level, and climatic conditions. As a result, in a bid to curb the increased emission of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, global countries convened at Paris and formulated the Paris Agreement which aimed at controlling the levels of emissions that each country releases to the atmosphere for the sake of stabilizing climate change and other negative effects brought about by these gases.
In 2010 the estimated worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases as a result of human activities was about 46 billion metric tons which were expressed as carbon IV oxide equivalents2. These included such gases as fluorinated gases, methane, and nitrous oxide among others. Apparently, this marked a 35% increment in greenhouse emissions since the 1990 levels recorded4. Similarly, the ten-year period between 1990 and 2010, saw 42% increase in carbon dioxide emissions accounting for over three-fourths of the total global greenhouse emissions. Others such as Nitrous oxide emissions and methane accounted for 9% and 15% emission levels respectively1.
Research has shown that over the years, the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions is the energy production industry. About 71% of the total global greenhouse gas emissions come from energy sector followed by agriculture at 13%. Land-use and forestry has been substantial net-sink for emissions for the last four decades but in the recent past, increased deforestation has made the control of carbon emissions and other gases difficult leading to massive global warming and adverse climate changes at unprecedented levels3.
Effects of greenhouse gases on global warming
Increased release of carbon IV oxide and other greenhouse gases has saturated the atmosphere leading to global warming. One way in which the earth is warmed is through the greenhouse effects4. When the sun’s energy falls onto the earth surface, part of the sun’s energy is reflected back into the atmosphere. Some the energy is absorbed and re radiated to the earth atmosphere by the greenhouse gases, hence keeping the earth warm. These greenhouse gases, which include ozone, carbon dioxide, methane, water vapour and nitrous oxide among others are illustrated in Figure 1 in the Appendix. However, due to industrial revolution and increased human activities (burning of coal, oil and natural gas), more greenhouse gases are released to the environment thus increasing the amount of heat trapped in the atmosphere resulting to global warming.
Good scientific evidence shows that carbon dioxide content in the air has increased tremendously since 1990 from a preindustrial level of 200 ppm to about 400 ppm by 2013. The earth is experiencing global warming which is depicted by high temperatures and sudden unprecedented destructive rainfalls in some parts.
There are worries that possible increase of global temperature of 1 degree to 4 degrees by the end of the 21st century if action is action is not taken is inevitable. There have been several consequences of global warming which range from floods, droughts, storms, melting of ice near the poles, increased incidences of tropical diseases, and possible inundation of global coastal cities4. The rising international concerns on global warming effects as a result of increased greenhouse emissions led to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement of 2015 aimed at advocating for reduction in carbon emissions by all countries.
The Paris Agreement and its target
In this research, the Paris Agreement is the latest convention that was aimed at enhancing the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 by ensuring the mitigation and control of greenhouse gas emissions globally as a way of controlling global warming5. The Paris Agreement of 2015, which had 195 countries in attendance, had its target aimed at limiting the global temperature rise by the end of 21st century to 1.5 degrees Celsius and ensure that global warming increase was kept below 2 degrees Celsius as recommended by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommendations3
In this convention, the developed countries pledged commitment to assist developing countries in terms of climate control via mitigation of greenhouse emissions and ensure that a framework for transparent reporting, monitoring, and ratcheting up of individual countries on mitigation of global warming effects was put to use in realizing IPCC recommendations on controlled climatic changes through curbing global greenhouse emissions 2
Significance of the Paris Agreement
The significance of the 2015 Paris Agreement was to influence all countries in the world to enhance commitment on combating climate change. The emphasis was on regulation of greenhouse gas emissions by every country as a fundamental strategy towards battling global warming and other adverse climatic changes. It created a united front and commitment for fighting global climatic change4.
The aim of this report is to make an evaluation and analysis of the Paris Agreement of 2016 on climate change and the impact it has had on Australia’s commitment towards regulation of greenhouse emissions, the strategies it is applying, and comparing Australia’s emission reduction to other countries, in a bid to determine how these commitments have impacted climate change in the country6.
Greenhouse gases emissions in Australia
Australia falls under the class of modern developed countries with high potential of increased industrial development. Being a part of the 195 countries which signed the Paris Agreement of 2015, the Australian government has been on the forefront of implementing policies aimed at curbing greenhouse emissions and consequent global warming mitigation. However, the 26-28% below 2005 emission levels by 2030 for Australia is not going to be achieved since the country has fallen short when it comes to effectively tackling climate change5.
The 2005 to 2017 period was recorded as the world’s ever hottest period, depicting increased global warming and Australia is in the middle of it; as seen in figure 3. Climate change is on the extreme in Australia with bushfire weather being experienced in the Southern and Eastern parts of the country. The south west and south east are experiencing possible drought depicting vulnerability to the country’s ageing energy infrastructure6. There are eight sectors that are deemed responsible for the increased trend in Australia’s levels of emissions which may impede the realization of the Paris Agreement on greenhouse emissions and climate regulation efforts. These include agriculture, transport, electricity, industrial processes, waste, land use, stationery energy, and land use change and forestry as seen in figure 2 in the Appendix. The country’s emissions have increased for a third consecutive year since 2017.
However, in its efforts to curb the alarming emission increment, the Australian government has guaranteed 26% emissions reduction in the National Electricity Market and set aside some funds to ensure implementation in the waste and agriculture as well. However, little has been done to ensure policy implementation effectiveness on emission reduction in various sectors. However, it has restricted the amount of fluorocarbons permitted for importation into the country by 2036. The estimated reduction in emissions is 86% by 20136 if they were to be implemented fully6.
The government has gone ahead to improve vehicle emissions and fuel emission standards, a concept that is effectively reducing carbon emissions into the atmosphere. However, the raised concerns are that there lacks proper policies by the federal government to regulate and reduce greenhouse emissions in the waste, industrial processes, fugitive emissions, and the stationary energy sectors.
Based on the outlined current status of Australia, it means that the country will probably not meet its 26-28% emissions reduction target by 2030. There lacks an overarching plan in Australia’s emission reduction target goals and the worrying trend is that the country’s emission levels may be even higher by 2030 if something is not done sooner7.
The target for the Federal government’s emission reduction has been to reduce the overall greenhouse emissions by 26% in the National Electricity Market. With this target in place, it implies that it has to be translated to all other sectors with a reduction of 26-28% target reduction being put in place6. Cutting greenhouse emissions from these sectors will be difficult and very expensive. The rate of emissions continues to grow in multiple other sectors and the main alternative proposed is transition to renewable energy as the main alternative that will facilitate emission reductions and service the country’s huge appetite for energy. The demand for oil, gas, and coal as the primary sources of energy in Australia have led to increase carbon dioxide emissions and makes it hard for the 26-28% general reduction of emissions in the country difficult.
Strategies to control greenhouse gases emissions in Australia
One of the strategies for Australia to reach its carbon emissions levels has been for the government to encourage electrification of the transport sector where possible. This will mean that the country will have to switch to low carbon fuels in facilitation of its transport sector. The other proposal has been for Australia to balance its carbon budget to net-zero emissions by 2050 by reducing emissions in each of the eight sectors that it relies on for energy and other economic aspects
Setting aside a budget that will facilitate implementation of energy reduction policies will be one way to enhance emissions regulation in the country. The government has set aside Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) to enable in curbing the increased rise in greenhouse gas emissions. The EFR is a voluntary scheme that was set aside by the government to provide financial incentives to communities, land owners, and businesses in helping reduce emissions8.
The other strategy has been on reliance on the national energy productivity plan (NEPP) aimed at ensuring that energy productivity is enhanced by 40% by 2030. The plan aims at replacing overreliance on carbon based energy sources with smart appliances and solar power9. The government has also introduced policies and measures to increase uptake of renewable energy. It has also embarked on setting policies that encourage reduction of hydrofluorocarbons in the country by 85%10.
I would propose that Australia embraces alternative renewable energy programs as part of its strategies to curb the rising trend on carbon emissions. I would propose that such energy sources as wind, geothermal, hydro energy, and solar energy to be encouraged in its national grid to service the huge energy demand that the country has and in the process reduce the overreliance on coal, gas, and oil. This will see to it that about 43% of the country’s emissions are reduced via reduction of utilization of carbon-based energy sources8. Punitive measures in fining industrialists who do not adhere to carbon emission policies set in the country should also be put. These can be in form of heavy fines, shutting down of industries, or even jailing those who fail to comply
Benchmarking of Australia’s emission reduction with other countries
A close benchmarking comparison of Australia’s greenhouse emissions reduction strategies to those of other countries outlines existence of a significant difference. Such countries as Britain and Columbia have been able to curb emissions by introducing carbon tax per every ton of emissions released by industrialists and businessmen into the atmosphere above the set limits. Other countries have been encouraging the use of full electricity production from zero-carbon sources, per say in such states as New York and California in the US, an aspect that Australia has been unable to implement so far.
Other countries such as Norway have been able to reduce carbon emissions through aggressive transport plans such as the electric-vehicle incentives that have now hit a mark of all half of the new car sales in Norway. Another example is China which has on the forefront of greenhouse emissions through a strategy of setting efficiency targets for industries like steel, petrochemicals, and cement. In 2016, the United States and Canada set emissions regulation by laying strategy to curb methane emissions from oil and gas operations.
Therefore, in close comparison, most other countries have already started reducing carbon emissions to some extent as agreed in the Paris Agreement convention. The policies and strategies they have put in place are gradually being implemented and significant reduction in greenhouse emissions is being noticed in individual countries unlike in Australia where poor policy implementation and overreliance on carbon fuels in economic sectors has been on the rise.
The rise of greenhouse emissions on a global level has been on the rise and as a result, the Paris Agreement Convention on climate change and regulation via reduction of greenhouse emissions was convened in 2015. Australia, being a part of the convention, has however not been able to realize its target emissions reduction set for the year 2030. On the contrary, there are worries that its carbon emissions are on the rise as a result of inability to implement its emissions policies and overreliance on carbon energy sources in running its economy. When benchmarked with other countries such as the US, Germany, Norway, Columbia, and Ice land, Australia lags behind in meeting the targets set by the Paris Agreement. Some of the recommended strategies towards greenhouse emission reduction in Australia include reduction of fluorocarbons in the country, adoption of renewable energy, setting up a budget that will facilitate policy implementation, setting up carbon emission tax on some industries, introducing efficiency target for industries, and improving energy use in then transport sector via adoption of electric vehicles and trains among others. Australia is therefore must work harder to curb its greenhouse emissions or it will reach critical situation that will not only affect its climate, but that of the entire world.
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Figure 1: Green house Gases Emission and Global Warming
Source: The Climate Council. “Australia’s Rising Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” Climate Council, 2018
Figure 2: Sources of Greenhouse Gases Emission in Australia
Source: Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency Australia’s Emission Projections 2010
Figure 3: Tracking Australia’s greenhouse gases emissions
- National greenhouse gas inventory
- Climate Change Authority’s proposed reduction targets
- The government’s Paris emission reduction targets
Source: The Climate Council. “Australia’s Rising Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” Climate Council, 2018