Snapshot of country climate change action Media Brief

Jun 28, 2012 - 9:38am

Australia is far from acting alone on climate change.

All major emitters are implementing policies to reduce emissions, drive clean energy investment and improve energy efficiency. This is driven by a range of factors including the need to reduce local and global air pollution, avoid environmental degradation, improve energy security and build new industries and employment opportunities.

These policies have seen a global boom in clean energy and other low pollution investment in recent years. In 2011, nearly half of global investment in power generation was directed towards clean energy.

The table in this Media Brief (see download version) outlines the national targets, carbon prices, renewable energy targets and emission standards that have been set by major economies and emitters. It is not exhaustive as the breadth of national action and policy implementation is not possible to capture in a single fact sheet.

Emission targets for 2020: Countries representing around 80 per cent of global emissions have now committed internationally to reduce or limit their carbon pollution. Different countries use different metrics to define their targets. Australia’s bipartisan supported target range is 5-25 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020. Recent analysis indicates that achieving the minimum Australian target requires less effort to achieve than the comparable targets set by advanced economies such as Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and the USA. It also appears less ambitious than some emerging economy targets such those set by Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, and South Korea.

Direct carbon prices: The base rate carbon prices are given to indicate the price the nation is prepared to put on carbon pollution to reflect the damage it causes. Base rates are given in national currencies. However, they are also converted into international (2010) dollars, which are widely used in economics to make comparisons between countries. The World Bank defines an international dollar as having "the same purchasing power over GDP as the US dollar has in the United States."A dollar spent in Australia has very different purchasing power than a dollar spent in India. Different countries also apply the prices on different fuels and sectors and provide, including in Australia, exemptions and reduced rates for certain industries. Coverage of emission sources is also indicated in the table as these vary by country.  

The level of Australia’s starting carbon price is not excessive compared to those in a range of other advanced economies like California, Norway, Switzerland and even those being implemented in relatively poor countries like South Africa.

No country, including Australia, covers all national emissions with direct carbon pricing. A number of countries cover more emission sources than Australia. For example, carbon taxes in Denmark, Finland, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland cover 70 per cent or more of national emissions while Australia’s covers around two thirds of emissions.

Renewable Energy Targets: Renewable energy targets and policies are common across the world with over 100 countries now having implemented policies to support the development of clean energy. However, different countries use different metrics to measure progress towards their clean energy future (e.g. electricity only or all energy) and some countries have much larger natural endowments of clean energy than others (e.g. nearly 100 per cent of Norway’s electricity is already produced from renewable energy).

To give an indication of the effort (but not the cost) associated with meeting a country’s target the current level of renewable energy is also indicated. For example, to meet the Renewable Energy Target Australia needs to roughly double the proportion of renewable in the electricity generation mix, a country like Indonesia will need to roughly triple theirs.

Power sector and vehicle emission standards: A number of countries like Canada, the UK and the USA have or are implementing regulations to control carbon pollution from the power sector. This builds on a long history of emission performance standards to cars and trucks. For example, the US Environment Protection Authority is in the process of regulating emission sources that account to around 70 per cent of the USA’s emissions. 

Australia’s proposed vehicle levels are weak by Chinese, EU, Japanese, South Korean and USA standards. The Australian Government abandoned a commitment to regulate emissions from new power stations. For comparison of power sector standards, the average emissions of a Victorian brown coal plant are around 1,200 kg CO2/MWh,  whereas the average emissions of the most efficient gas-fired power station is  about 370kg CO2/MWh and a coal plant with full carbon capture and storage is 110kg CO2/MWh.

Please see the download version for full text and charts.  


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