The emissions trading scheme has failed to cut carbon emissions, a new report suggests.
Yesterday the Environmental Protection Authority issued details of the scheme's activity last year. For most industries, greenhouse gas emissions had stayed level or increased.
The biggest commercial emitter is agriculture and its greenhouse gas outputs must be reported, though this sector is exempt from paying carbon emission units. Its gas output rose 7 per cent last year.
The output of the energy and industry sector has bobbed up and down for the past four years, but the 19 million tonnes reported to have been released last year was two million more than in 2010.
Emissions from liquid fossil fuels have stayed relatively level at about 16m tonnes. The waste sector, introduced to the scheme in 2012, decreased its emissions by more than a quarter last year.
Labour Party climate change spokeswoman Moana Mackey said a trading scheme with proper teeth would lead to decreasing greenhouse gas output overall.
"Though some industries are going to require a big shift in technology for them to achieve emissions reductions, but that's why we have support available."
By continuing to gift emitters free carbon offset units, as well as allowing them to meet their requirements through cheap international units, the Government gave emitters little incentive to stop polluting, Mackey said.
Buying units internationally was also a significant blow to the forestry sector, with 700 foresters leaving the scheme last year, she said. "If we're not planting trees now, we're staring off the edge of a cliff in 2020."
The report showed more deforestation than tree planting was recorded in 2013, after three years of the reverse situation.
But Climate Change Issues Minister Tim Groser said the current scheme was the most "economically efficient" and had helped meet the country's Kyoto protocol obligations.
"Since first introduced in 2008, the emissions trading scheme has had a positive impact on forestation, with more trees having been planted than have been cut down, and the size of the forest estate has increased."
Last year, the scheme had a non-compliance rate - of participants failing to report or submitting late - of more than one in 10.
BY THE NUMBERS
97 million tonnes, total emissions reported in the 2013-14 financial year
19 million tonnes of carbon offset
33 million tonnes emitted by agriculture in 2013, up from 31 million in 2012
19 million tonnes emitted by energy and industry, down from the 2012 high of 21 million tonnes
2 million tonnes from waste, down from 3 million
99.5 per cent of all offset used international carbon units
Source: Environmental Protection Authority
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