Saturday, 8 July 2017

Federal Government stops releasing environmental data amid fears of 'sharp rise' in pollution

Updated yesterday at 4:39pm

The Federal Government has stopped releasing pollution data that used to be announced on a quarterly basis, with conservationists suspicious the data would show "a sharp rise" in pollution levels.

Key points:

  • Until December 2016, Government had released data quarterly since 2009
  • FOI revealed data has been ready for release and was seen by Mr Frydenberg
  • Analysis from independent agency "shows likely rise in pollution levels"

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has revealed updates by the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory have not been made public since late last year.
The documents appear to show the data was ready for release, and had been seen by Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg.
Kelly O'Shanassy, chief executive of the ACF, said up until December 2016, the Australian Government had released climate pollution data in Australia every quarter (29 times) since 2009.
"But that did stop last year, the last data that was released was for June 2016," she said.
"And we haven't seen data since then."
Large sections of the documents provided under the FOI request have been redacted — including the emission data itself.
"One thing that wasn't redacted was information that clearly showed that Minister Josh Frydenberg has received this report back in March this year, I believe," Ms O'Shanassy said.
"And there was a note saying the Government could release it late on a Friday afternoon in May — now they didn't do that.
"It's also worthy of noting that this data is always released late on a Friday afternoon, in fact one time it was released on December 24th, when no-one was looking.
"So it's a bit of MO (modus operandi) of this particular government to release this data when they think no-one is looking.
"And now they've gotten to the level they're not releasing it at all."

Independent analysis shows rising pollution levels: ACF

Ms O'Shanassy said she had strong suspicions as to why the updates had stopped.
"An independent agency has done some analysis that shows that pollution levels have likely risen sharply since then," she said.

"And so perhaps that's one of the reasons why the Government is sitting on this information and not releasing it.
"Hiding pollution isn't the solution to the Government's current love of coal and paralysis on climate change, but it is what you will do if you don't think you are going to meet your long-term Paris [agreement] commitment.
"And right now, not many people believe that we will meet our 2030 Paris commitments — as weak as those commitments are."
Ms O'Shanassy said the removal of the carbon tax had driven an uptick in emissions from the electricity sector.
"When the current Government removed the price on pollution they made polluting in this country free," she said.
"And therefore there's more coal being burnt in this country and therefore more pollution.
"So pollution is on the rise in Australia when it should be falling."
The ABC has approached the office of Mr Frydenberg for comment.

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