No shortage of emissions

Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions increased for the third consecutive year in 2017, approaching all-time highs. The trend is projected to continue without credible and comprehensive climate and energy policies across all sectors of the economy, according to the Climate Council in its latest report Australia’s Rising Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

The report found that under current policies, Australia will not meet its 2030 Paris commitments. Instead, at the current rate, Australia will completely exhaust its global carbon budget share well before 2030.

The Climate Change Authority recommended a 45-65 per cent emissions reduction target for 2030 below 2005 levels, based on scientific evidence, what comparable countries are doing and what is in the best interests of Australia  

If all other countries were to have similar climate policies to Australia’s, global average temperature could reach over 3°C and up to 4°C above pre-industrial levels (Climate Action Tracker 2018). A four-degree world would make it very difficult for human civilisation to cope, putting billions of lives in danger.

Despite all the evidence pointing to the need for more urgent and timely action, a group of backbenchers is ramping up calls for more coal plants and delayed action on emission controls.

The Climate Council report says new renewables built to meet the Renewable Energy Target by 2020 coupled with state initiatives will ensure the electricity sector is the only major polluting sector likely to meet the “woefully inadequate” 2030 pro-rata target. Most of this reduction will be achieved by 2020.

The electricity sector would need to reduce cumulative emissions by just 8 per cent from 2018 to 2030 in order to achieve its pro-rata reduction.

The NEG places a much greater burden on other sectors of the economy where it will be much more challenging and expensive to reduce emissions: Transport, Stationary Energy and Fugitive Sectors will need to cut emissions by over 30 per cent compared to today’s levels, Agriculture and Industry by over 20 per cent.

The prospect for cutting emissions this much in a decade is remote on current policy settings, or initiatives currently contemplated by the Federal Government, the Climate Council notes, however the electricity sector can and should do more to reduce emissions. State initiatives should be additional to the NEG emissions target, not captured by it, to help relieve pressure on other sectors of the economy.

This view is shared by the Smart Energy Council.

“Already states and territories are embracing a reliable and clean energy future leading the way to a clean, renewable energy future. The Federal Government needs to work with the States and Territories to set credible, long-term energy and emissions policies that are demonstrably in the national interest, rather than continue the current approach which locks in an inadequate 2030 emissions target and trajectory,” the Climate Council writes.