A new national index of business activity and its impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions is being developed to track Australia’s progress towards a low carbon economy.

The research being conducted by Climateworks Australia will enable government, businesses and the community to see the impact of actions taken to reduce emissions and to track Australia’s progress in achieving its 5 per cent emissions reduction target by 2020.

Climateworks Interim Executive Director, Greg Garvin said the initial stage of the research focussed on the large industrial sector but would be expanded next year to provide an economy-­wide perspective covering the power, buildings, agriculture and transport sectors.  

“It is critical to have a robust framework for monitoring low carbon activity and to understand how Australia is progressing towards a low carbon economy,” he said.  

“Existing reporting systems focus on the total number of emissions produced and the total level of energy use of individuals and businesses.  However, there are no comprehensive statistics being collected and aggregated nationally to monitor the underlying activity that will determine progress towards our emissions reduction target.

Our research means for the first time national data on low carbon activity across economic sectors will be brought together in a comprehensive and comparable way.   

Greg Garvin

“For example, this might include data on the number of energy efficiency projects that are being implemented by industrial companies, the number of wind farms that are being built or proposed, or the land area that is being reforested.

“We will use this data to produce the first whole-­of-­economy National Progress Report in reducing emissions including an in-­depth analysis for large industrial energy efficiency opportunities by mid-­2013.”

Mr Garvin said a key part of the research would be identifying drivers and barriers to emissions reduction in the key industry sectors.

“By mapping business activity in key sectors we can identify what actions are effective and where there are barriers to reducing carbon emissions,” he said. “This information will inform business and government about where they need to target their efforts and policy initiatives to overcome these problems.”

Mr Garvin said the initial research showed many industrial companies were already taking significant action to reduce their energy use.

“Over the last five years, energy efficiency activity in the large industrial sector has approximately tripled compared to historical levels,” he said. “Several companies have now changed their internal processes to ensure that energy efficiency is embedded into their decision making.

“For example, Boral has implemented the LEAN manufacturing approach including for its energy management, which refocuses staff attention on the value of energy saving opportunities.

“At Amcor, the energy efficiency team reports directly to the Chief Financial Officer which provides rigor to energy efficiency projects and raises their profile within the company.”