Does electricity generation make up only a third of Australia's CO2 emissions?

By Tiffanie Turnbull and James Lane

The Statement

"Electricity generation is only one third of our CO2 emissions.”

Liberal MP Craig Kelly. June 9, 2019.

The Analysis

Liberal MP Craig Kelly says Labor lost the federal election because it failed to explain how it would meet its emissions reduction targets across multiple sectors without “smashing” the Australian economy. [1]

AAP FactCheck examined Mr Kelly’s claim that only a third of CO2 emissions come from electricity generation.

This year's federal poll was labelled the ‘climate change election’ following dissatisfaction among voters on a perceived lack of action on the issue from successive governments. The ALP took a suite of climate policies to the election, including an emissions reduction target of 45 per cent by 2030 in a bid to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. The coalition pledged a more modest target of 26 per cent by 2030. [2] [3]

Mr Kelly told Sky News that climate policy was a large contributor to Labor’s election defeat because voters realised that CO2 reductions couldn’t be solely achieved in the electricity sector. He claimed Labor would have to "go out and start slaughtering the dairy cows” and “take planes out of the sky” to achieve their emission reductions in agriculture and transport but the result would “smash the economy, kill jobs and cause hardship and poverty". [1]

Three of Australia’s biggest sources of CO2 emissions come from electricity generation, transport and agriculture, according to the latest quarterly update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Inventory. It found electricity was the biggest CO2 emitter and accounted for 33.2 per cent of all emissions - 0.1 per cent off a third. [4]

The quarterly update also states the electricity sector has "experienced the largest growth" in emissions - just under 40 per cent - since 1990, when the National Greenhouse Inventory began. The waste and agriculture sectors have decreased their CO2 emissions since 1990. [4]

In the year to December 2018 electricity generation emissions fell by 3.5 per cent. The 2018 levels are down 15.5 per cent from the peak recorded in the year to June 2009. [4]

The second biggest CO2 emitter in 2018 was stationary energy, which includes manufacturing, construction and commercial sectors with 19.1 per cent. Transport accounted for 18.9 per cent of emissions and agriculture 12.9 per cent. [4] [6]

Based on the figures AAP FactCheck concludes that Mr Kelly’s claim on electricity generation emissions is correct.

The Verdict

  • True - The checkable claim is true.

The References

1: ‘The Kenny Report, Sky News TV’. June 9, 2019:

2: ‘The climate change election: where do the parties stand on the environment?’, by Adam Morton. The Guardian Australia. May 12, 2019:

3: ‘A Shorten Labor Government will take real action on climate change.’ Australian Labor Party:

4: ‘Quarterly Update of Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory: December 2018’. (Pages 7 and 8, Figure 5). Department of the Environment and Energy. Australian Government. June 2019:

5: ‘Labor lost the unlosable election - now it's up to Morrison to tell Australia his plan’. by Katharine Murphy. The Guardian Australia. May 19, 2019:

6: ‘Australian stationary energy emissions’. Parliament of Australia. November 15, 2010:

  • First published June 13, 2019 15:55 AEST