The pandemic brought Australia's carbon emissions to a 25-year low, but levels are rising again as transport and agriculture pick up speed.
The latest National Greenhouse Gas Inventory data published by the federal government shows Australia's yearly volume of emissions is the lowest since 1995, following an overall 4.4 per cent decline in emissions for the year to September 2020.
However, the quarterly figures show sharp rises in emissions in both transport (10.2 per cent) and agriculture (10.2 per cent) sectors, following the end of lockdowns and last year's drought.
The long-term structural declines are also evident in the electricity sector from deployment of solar and wind.
The national electricity market saw a decline in emissions of 3.9 per cent on a seasonally adjusted and weather-normalised basis in the quarter to December.
The production of exports for overseas markets generates 38.6 per cent of Australia's total emissions.
Investing in low-emissions technologies will enable Australia's continued success in meeting and beating its emissions reduction targets, said Energy Minister Angus Taylor.
"Australia beat its 2020 target by 459 million tonnes and we are on track to meet and beat our 2030 Paris target," Mr Taylor said.
If Australia does beat the Paris target, it won't be due to the federal government, says the Climate Council's Tim Baxter.
"The federal government cannot rely on a pandemic to keep its emissions suppressed," Mr Baxter said.
"Emissions will rise again unless we change the way we create and use energy, get around, and make products."
Every state and territory has a net-zero emissions target, but the federal government does not.
While Prime Minister Scott Morrison indicated a preference to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, it has not matched making it a target as Labor has done.
Most of Australia's major trading partners have committed to net-zero emissions by 2050. Some countries are also contemplating carbon tariffs on imports from high-emitting nations like Australia.
Mr Baxter said the federal government should be supporting states and territories embracing clean, affordable renewable energy to reach their emissions targets.
"Australia's climate inaction is a major economic risk and could leave us saddled with stranded fossil-fuel assets and costly export tariffs. It also worsens climate change, which is harming Australians already and getting worse," said Mr Baxter.
ALP climate spokesman Chris Bowen has promised Labor will reveal a roadmap to net zero by 2050, but the party is yet to do so.
"That roadmap will have job creation investment in our regions and suburbs, ensuring the investment framework for cheaper electricity so we can see some reinvigoration of manufacturing at its heart." Mr Bowen said.
"We need a plan to reduce emissions and create jobs and that's exactly what our plan will do."
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