Australia’s carbon emissions have plummeted to 1990s levels – the lowest in 22 years – in one positive outcome from the global coronavirus pandemic.
Domestic travel restrictions and grounded planes have led to an eight per cent drop in greenhouse gases pollution, a preliminary March quarterly update released on Monday shows.
Emissions reduced by about 10 million tonnes to 518 million tonnes for the year to June compared to last year, the lowest level since 1998.
The figures will be confirmed and finalised in November.
The environmental improvement was a rare silver lining in the coronavirus pandemic which has reached the disturbing milestone of 25 million infections worldwide.
Victoria reported 114 cases and 11 deaths on Sunday, nine of which were people in aged care homes, bringing the total in such facilities to 382.
The national death toll now stands at 611.
NSW saw a COVID-19 cluster at a CBD gym swell to 28, while Queensland reported another four infections linked to a correctional services training academy in the state’s southeast.
Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor said coronavirus restrictions on livelihoods and freedom of travel had substantially reduced emissions.
“With the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions being felt across the economy, emissions have reduced as expected,” Mr Taylor said.
With state and international borders shut to tourists, transport sector emissions fell dramatically with major reductions in jet fuel (79 per cent) and petrol (26.7) consumption.
Overall, liquid fuel emissions were 17.9 per cent lower compared to the 2019 June quarter.
The quarterly report put the fall in electricity emissions down to a 5.5 per cent reduction in coal generation and 12.2 per cent rise in renewable energy supply to the National Electricity Market.
Meanwhile, emissions from exports were up 1.9 per cent – accounting for 38.6 per cent of total emissions driven by an 11.1 per cent year-on-year rise in liquefied natural gas being shipped overseas.
Final emissions data for the June quarter and 2019-20 financial year will be published in late November 2020.
Businesses to drive Victoria’s reopening
Victoria’s premier is taking steps towards planning the end of Melbourne’s stage four lockdown with an announcement expected on Monday.
Daniel Andrews will explain how the government will engage with businesses on the road towards reopening.
“I will make some announcements tomorrow (Monday) in relation to how we’re going to engage with industry, for instance, to make sure that we are getting the latest and best input around what that opening up should look like,” he told reporters on Sunday.
It came as the premier remained tight-lipped on a broader road map, as cases shot up to 114 on Sunday after creeping under 100 on Saturday.
While Victoria’s general downward trend is promising, Mr Andrews said it was still too early to announce what life would look like when restrictions are due to ease on September 13.
The premier insists new case numbers would “explode” if restrictions were rolled back now.
The state’s next set of rules will be guided by “science and data and evidence” and will likely be in place for “many months”, he added.
Bus passengers on notice
NSW Health issued an urgent public health warning for a Sydney bus route, popular gym and pub as a CBD COVID-19 cluster grows.
Commuters who boarded the X39 bus that left Pitt Street at 6.08pm and arrived at Randwick’s Clovelly Road at 6.40pm bus on Thursday, August 20 have been told to immediately self-isolate and be tested
Passengers on the X39 bus that left Pitt Street opposite Australia Square at 6.08pm and arrived at Randwick’s Clovelly Road at Carrington Road at 6.40pm are considered close contacts.
In another alert, people who attended Highfield Caringbah pub for more than two hours from 6pm to 8.30pm on Saturday, August 22 are also being told to immediately isolate and seek testing.
Gym goers who used Randwick’s Fitness First weights room on Sunday, August 23 from 3.30pm to 4.15pm have also been directed to self-isolate.
Reddam Early Learning Centre at Lindfield has been closed for cleaning after a staff member tested positive.
The staffer, who is a household contact of a case linked to the CBD cluster, worked for three days from August 25 to 27 while unknowingly infectious.
NSW recorded seven new virus cases on Sunday after two more members of a city gym tested positive.
One new case is among returned travellers in hotel quarantine, while a student at a western Sydney high school has also tested positive.