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Australia’s emissions outpace 2030 target

Published by Climate Action Tracker

Australia’s Paris Agreement target is 26-28% reduction below 2005 levels by 2030 (including LULUCF). With current policies total emissions including LULUCF are projected to be about 7% below 2005 levels by 2030, rising from 15% below in 2013 the last full year before the present government repealed the carbon pricing system. After factoring out the highly uncertain LULUCF sector to focus on energy and industry emissions Australia’s Paris Agreement target translates to 14-16% decrease from 2005 levels by 2030. Under current policies, Australian emissions are headed for an increase of 8% above 2005 levels by 2030 (excluding LULUCF), and if rated would be “highly insufficient”.

This means Australia’s emissions are set too far outpace its “Insufficient” 2030 target. Emissions excluding the LULUCF sector have increased by around 1% per year on average since 2014, the year in which Australia’s national carbon pricing scheme was repealed. In developments over the last year the Australian government dismissed the findings of the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, discontinued its funding to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), ignored the call by the UN Secretary General and its Pacific Island neighbours to increase its climate action, let alone the expressed desire of Australians for more action – and its emissions continue to increase, despite Government protestations to the contrary. Australia’s emissions from fossil fuels and industry continue to rise. The rapid ramp-up in the production of liquified natural gas (LNG) for export means LNG processing has driven huge increases in greenhouse gas emissions in Australia.

One bright spot is the growth of renewable energy in the power sector which is quite rapid, driven initially by the large-scale renewable energy target for 2020, which the Federal government will not renew. The State of South Australia has a 100% renewable by 2030 target, and others have also ambitious 2030 goals, and as well there are world-leading innovations in the electricity sector to accommodate the rapid growth of variable renewable energy. The outlook is clouded though as many analysts believe further incentives and/or structural changes are needed in the electricity market for recent rates of renewable deployment to continue and grow. 

In contrast to the Australian Federal Government, every state and mainland territory government in the country has made either aspirational or legislated commitments toward zero-emissions. Victoria has legislated a net zero emissions by 2050 target, and the ACT has legislated a target to be net zero by 2045. 

The “Climate Solutions Package” announced in February 2019 confirms that the Australian government is not intending to implement any serious climate policy efforts. Instead, it wants to meet its targets by relying on carry over units from the Kyoto Protocol, which would significantly lower the actual emission reductions needed. The National Hydrogen Strategy released in November 2019 risks becoming a brown hydrogen strategy in favour of propping up coal and carbon capture and storage technology, rather than focusing on renewable energy and green hydrogen. 

The government also wants to continue relying on the inadequate policy instrument, the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) now re-named the “Climate Solutions Fund” which is failing to contribute to any significant emissions reductions. Recent ERF auctions have seen fewer emissions abatements contracted, projects have been dropped from the fund for failing to meet abatements, there are issues of additionality, and the fund is dominated by land use sector abatements with a high risk of reversal, for example through bushfires. 

The government continues to consider underwriting new coal fired power generation and extending the lifetime of old coal plants – completely inconsistent with the need to phase out coal globally by 2040 and in OECD countries by 2030. If all other countries were to follow Australia’s “Highly Insufficient” current policy trajectory, warming could reach over 3°C and up to 4°C.

This is an extract from Climate Action Tracker’s Australia report.