Estimates of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions are produced by the Australian Department of Environment. NSW emissions in 2012/13 (the latest year of data) were 142 million tonnes CO2e, with stationary energy (generating heat and electricity) the largest contributing sector. NSW emissions represent 26% of Australia's total emissions while NSW is home to around one third of Australia’s population, and over 30% of national gross domestic product [i].
Almost eighty percent of NSW emissions come from the extraction, processing and burning of fossil fuels, primarily coal. Seventy percent of emissions are in the form of carbon dioxide, with methane emissions the next largest form of emissions.
Trends in emissions
NSW emissions are lower now than in 1990 due mainly to a reduction in the rate of land clearing. In the fossil fuel burning sectors, emissions have grown by 22% since 1990, including a 13% increase in emissions from electricity generation. However since 2009 emissions from energy industries (including electricity generation) have decreased from a peak of 67.4 million tonnes CO2e to 56.9 million tonnes.
NSW greenhouse gas emissions and trends
Stationary Energy: 70 million tonnes (49% of total emissions)
Nearly half of all NSW emissions in 2012/2013 were from the stationary energy sector, primarily from public electricity production. Emissions in the sector grew steadily from 1990 to 2008. However since 2009 emissions in the stationary energy sector have decreased by 10.6 million tonnes as a result of reduced demand due to the global financial crisis, energy efficiency improvements and from increased electricity generation from lower emissions sources such as renewable energy and gas powered generation.
Burning fossil fuels accounts for over 99% of emissions in the sector. Coal combustion alone produces 52 million tonnes of emissions annually or nearly 37% of all NSW greenhouse gas emissions.
Transport: 27 million tonnes (19% of total emissions)
Transport emissions are currently the second largest component of NSW greenhouse gas emissions.
The major source of transport emissions is road transport which accounts for 86% of all NSW transport emissions. This reflects the importance of motor vehicles for both passenger and freight transport within the state.
Since 1990 emissions have increased by 7.9 Mt and have grown an average of 2% per year since 2009.
Fugitive emissions 15 million tonnes (11% of total emissions)
The fugitive emissions sector includes emissions from coal mining and oil & gas recovery, transport and storage. Fugitive emissions in NSW are dominated by emissions from coal mining (96% of all fugitive emissions).
Most fugitive emissions in NSW come from underground (12.9 Mt) and surface (1.2 Mt) coal mines.
Fugitive emissions grew during the mining boom but have fallen since 2007.
Industrial processes: 12 million tonnes (8% of total emissions)
Emissions in the industrial processes category include a variety of primarily chemical processes involved in industrial production. The sector covers a wide range of activities including: iron and steel production; production of cement clinker; lime production; limestone and dolomite use; chemical manufacturing and aluminium production.
Industrial process emissions have fallen by 10% since 2000.
Agriculture: 19 million tonnes (13% of total emissions)
The primary source of agricultural emissions is methane produced as cows and sheep digest their food, known as enteric fermentation. These emissions account for 73% of all NSW agricultural emissions (14 Mt).
Emissions from agriculture have fallen by 26% since 1990. Agricultural emissions declined by 3% per annum from 2000 to 2009 as a result of decreased production associated with the Millennium drought which affected much of the state. For example sheep numbers fell by over 40% from 2000 to 2010.
To 2020 agricultural emissions are forecast to remain stable but are then forecast to increase to 2030 as production increases [ii].
Waste: 4 million tonnes (3% of total emissions)
Waste emissions are divided into solid waste disposal on land (landfills), which accounts for most waste emissions (3.4 Mt), and wastewater handling (sewage treatment).
Since 1990 emissions from waste have decreased by 40% as increased waste associated with growing populations and industrial production have been offset by higher recycling rates and methane recovery at landfills.
Land - use change and forestry: -4.8 million tonnes (-3.4% of total emissions)
Emissions from land clearing and forestry combine emissions from deforestation with carbon sequestered from reforestation activities.
Emissions from land clearing have fallen dramatically since 1990. In 1990 over 15 million tonnes of greenhouse gases were emitted because of land clearing. Since then changes to the management of land clearing have reduced land clearing emissions.
At the same time forest plantings for carbon sequestration projects have emerged as a new industry capable of helping NSW reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
How does NSW compare with the rest of the world?
NSW annual emissions per capita are around 19 tonnes CO2e. In the UK, Germany and Japan, annual emissions per capita are around 9-11 tonnes and the average for industrialised nations is about 12 tonnes per person [iii].
Australia's comparatively high per capita emissions are due to our relative abundance of cheap fossil fuels, high dependence on coal-fired power generation and the emissions intensity of our exports (such as aluminium, steel and coal).
All charts and trend graphs have been sourced from the Australian Greenhouse Emissions Information System (AGEIS), except where otherwise noted.
Do you want to see how climate change will affect your region?
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The Adapt NSW site now has an interactive map that allows you to see how climate change is projected to affect your region. You can look at the high resolution grid maps which display climate change at 10km scale or the regional maps which provide a summary for your region. Click through the variables and different time periods to see how the climate is projected to change for your region.
For the first time, the NSW and ACT Regional Climate Model (NARCLiM) allows you access to high resolution climate change data. This data is in a format that can be inputted directly into most biophysical models. You can choose the variable, time period and location of the data you want to download. The data portal provides instructions on how to download the data.
The About Climate Change tab provides a one stop shop for information on how and why our climate is changing. There is information to help understand the causes of climate change, climate change modelling, evidence of climate change today and how NSW is responding to the challenge.
Do you want to know how to adapt to climate change?
Climate change projections help us to understand how climate change is going to impact us. We then need to know how to adapt to those impacts. Adapting to climate change provides information on what adaptation is, sector specific issues and responses, and the process you can go through to understand and respond to the risks to and vulnerabilities of your services, assets and community from climate change.