Ballooning pollution shows Abbott’s climate tools aren’t up to the task Opinion Article

Mar 23, 2015 - 2:57pm

This article first appeared RenewEconomy on 20 March 2015.

John Connor   
CEO, The Climate Institute

Although the government is forecasting an easier emission reduction task by 2020, there is still no evidence its policies are up to the economic modernisation and decarbonisation challenge, because Australia’s projected pollution ballooning to and beyond 2020.

It’s not much use to say that the job has got easier when you still don’t have the tools to do it properly. Without a plan to modernise and decarbonise our economy, Australia’s ballooning pollution through 2020 and beyond will require massive dollops of taxpayer funds if the primary policy tool remains the Emissions Reduction Fund.”

These new projections are consistent with independent modelling that shows the government’s policies still aren’t up to the task of cutting Australian emissions even by the minimum amount we’ve committed to, let alone match comparable countries’ efforts or drive the deeper decarbonisation we will need over coming decades. The Government has provided no modelling to argue otherwise.”

Australia has committed internationally to cutting its national emissions by 5-25 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020, and will outline a draft post-2020 target in the middle of the year. The independent Climate Change Authority recommended that Australia’s 2020 target should be 19 per cent below 2000 levels and our 2030 target should be 40-60 per cent.

New government projections show that, in the absence of any climate policies at all, Australia’s emissions will keep growing to 2020 and beyond. By 2025 Australia’s emissions will be 23 per cent above today’s levels, and by 2030 emissions will be 30 per cent higher.

Figure 1. Australia’s emissions projections vs post-2020 targets

Our modelling shows that the combination of the Emission Reduction Fund, the proposed ‘safeguard mechanisms’ on large emitters and the full, uncut Renewable Energy Target aren’t enough to get to the five percent goal, and are grossly inadequate for the task of decarbonising our economy – a task now recognised as necessary by the World Bank, OECD and more.

The future of the Renewable Energy Target is still uncertain and the ‘safeguard mechanisms’ haven’t been developed yet, though the government intends to make them very generous to major emitters. That leaves the Emission Reduction Fund responsible for achieving millions upon millions of tonnes of emission reductions, an implausible task.”

This is deeply inadequate for our 2020 emission goals and even more inappropriate in the context of the internationally agreed goal of limiting global warming to less than 2°C. Other advanced economies have already set out their post-2020 targets: countries like the United States, United Kingdom and Germany are targeting cuts of around 30 per cent below 2000 levels by 2025, and increasing their rate of emissions reductions.

For Australia to contribute fairly to the 2°C goal our 2025 target should be 40 per cent below 2000 levels, but the government’s projections show that we will be emitting 360 million tonnes more than we should be in that year alone.

In other words, by 2025 the annual gap between doing nothing and doing our fair share is more than the government’s total projected abatement task for 2013-2020.”

Today’s projections do nothing but confirm the inadequacy of taxpayer funding as the primary emissions reduction tool. We need a coherent strategy to modernise and decarbonise our economy and in particular to clean up our energy system.

John Connor

John Connor was CEO of The Climate Institute from 2007 to March 2017. Whilst qualified as a lawyer, John has spent over twenty years working in a variety of policy and advocacy roles with organisations including World Vision, Make Poverty History, the Australian Conservation Foundation and the NSW Nature Conservation Council. Since joining The Climate Institute in 2007 John has been a leading analyst and commentator on the rollercoaster that has been Australia’s domestic and international carbon policy and overseen the Institute’s additional focus on institutional investors and climate risk. John has also worked on numerous government and business advisory panels.

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