Abbott chooses to follow fossil fuel route to Paris

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Abbott government’s opening salvo on post 2020 targets puts it squarely in the camp of Big Oil and Big Coal. There is no mention of 2C target, or even the need for a clean energy transition. But it’s managed to suck in some media.

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So, what does the fossil fuel industry and the Australian government have in common? Quite a lot as it turns out.

Both mouth platitudes about the importance of addressing climate change, and both are betting their economic futures on a scenario where the world does little about it. Both are determined to extract every last molecule and tonne of gas, oil and coal that they possibly can.

That much is clear – if it wasn’t already – by the tenor of the Abbott government’s options paper on its post 2020 emission reduction targets.

Despite some glamorous press coverage claiming that Prime Minister Tony Abbott is now taking climate change seriously – Fairfax Media on the weekend claimed that Prime Minister Tony Abbott is “a leader committed to the next big global climate commitments” – the options paper is a parody of any such idea.

There is no talk of meeting a 2°C target, the goal that Australia signed up to way back in Copenhagen. And the government insists that its primary policy will remain Direct Action, and continued government handouts to big business – a scenario that analysts say will cost it tens of billions in annual payments.

The energy scenario canvassed by Australia is almost exactly the same as BP, other big oil internationals, and Big Coal:  that fossil fuels will remain dominant in the decades to come.

“At present, around 80 per cent of the world’s primary energy needs are met through carbon-based fuels. By 2040, it is estimated that 74 per cent will still be met by carbon-based sources because of growing demand in emerging economies,” the report says.

As the paper itself points out, this is the “New Policies” scenario painted by the International Energy Agency. This is where global warming reaches 4°C, creating environmental and economic consequences that can barely be imagined.

In the words of the IEA, it would be a disaster. “Remarkably, if we were to continue on this path, the world’s energy supply would hardly be any cleaner in 2030 than it was at the founding of the IEA in the early 1970s,” the IEA noted with despair last year.

The IEA says that if the world wanted to meet its 2°C target, it needed to recognise that is had nearly exhausted its allowable budget of fossil fuels and must focus on electricity decarbonisation and immediately accelerate investment in low-carbon technologies.

Little wonder that Australia did not mention 2°C. This is the opposite of the Abbott government’s message, which wants to embrace business as usual, or even worse than BAU, as it flagged in the latest details to its emissions reduction fund last week, offering yet another free kick to polluters.

And remember, this document was not prepared by the environment department, or the foreign affairs department which has carriage over international climate talks. It was prepared by the PM’s office, which has seconded the issue as it did the renewable energy target, which has virtually killed the renewables industry in Australia.

The Australian rhetoric is also in stark contrast to what other countries are signing up for. Mexico became the first developing country earlier this month to sign up for binding targets.

As the White House noted: “Mexico is setting an example for the rest of the world by submitting an INDC that is timely, clear, ambitious, and supported by robust, unconditional policy commitments.  In particular, Mexico’s target to peak its emissions by 2026 and drive them down thereafter is a landmark step in the global transition to a low-carbon economy.”

The EU said in its submission: Our vision is of the Energy Union as a sustainable, low-carbon and climate-friendly economy that is designed to last … to reach our goal, we have to move away from an economy driven by fossil fuels, an economy where energy is based on a centralised, supply-side approach and which relies on old technologies and outdated business models.”

So if the Abbott government cannot even get its rhetoric on the same page as other countries, what chance is there of it getting targets on the same page.

The Abbott government’s position is in stark contrast to the independent body it is trying to close down, the Climate Change Authority, which last year said that Australia should aim for reduction of between a trajectory range for emissions reductions of between 40 and 60 per cent below 2000 levels by 2030 .

The Climate Institute says the target should be 40 per cent by 2025 and net zero emissions between 2040 and 2050.

The CCA in the past has ridiculed Australia’s current policy of cutting emissions from 2000 levels by 5 per cent, noting that without the Kyoto Protocol hangover, this amounts to a cut of just 1 per cent. It said Australia should much more reasonably use the Kyoto hangover to push its target to minus 19 per cent. It notes Direct Action will be unlikely to get to minus 5 per cent.

Like the IEA, the CCA also recommends a “carbon budget” of 10.1 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent for the 37 years from 2013-2050. But even if Australia had a 45 per cent reduction target by 2030 – and met it – it would still virtually exhaust that budget by that time.

The CCA is to release an update of Australia’s post 2020 targets which in mid April. On Monday morning, it released a “guide” to help interpret the various pledges made by other countries. It highlights some of the problems about comparing the difference between various targets from different countries.

CCA targets 1

Here are some of the targets that have been announced so far. As the CCA notes, the base year is critical, because it can be used to make a target look more ambitious.

As this graph below signals, the 5 per cent reduction target can be diced in many ways. The Abbott government has been citing the reduction from 2005, choosing to compare the target with nearly the highest ever emissions. The CCA says the broad rule is that the earlier the base year, the earlier the action that country undertook. The EU, for instance, peaked before 1990.

cca targets 3

Australia, the CCA argues, is not just one of the richest countries, with a high capacity to act, it also has the highest emissions  per capita, bar Luxembourg. Even with a big decrease in per capita emissions in recent years, it is still much higher than other countries because its starting point was so bad.

  • If Australia was serious about the 2°C target, then it would have to do something like that outlined below by the CCA. The vertical line on the right hand side is the range where countries have to get to if a joint effort is to meet that 2°C target. The fixed lines on the left are the historic achievements to date, and the dotted lines are where they are heading.

Europe, in light blue, gets within the top of the range. The US is getting closer. Not Australia, however, with its 5 per cent reduction target making barely any dent. The yellow dotted line is where the CCA says Australia needs to head.

cca targets 2

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12 Comments
  1. Henry WA 5 years ago

    No wonder Abbott wants to kill the CCA. He can’t have it pointing out his lies. He will no doubt tell the rest of the World that the CCA has been discredited, that it was a Labor/Greens stooge and that it had to be shut down as a result. (Does this sound familiar?)

  2. Rob G 5 years ago

    Sanctions will soon be placed on Australia. Then, Australia will be closed for business courtesy of Abbott and his thugs.

    • wideEyedPupil 5 years ago

      soon the better. the answers are so simple in the stationary energy sector. not so the land use and industry sectors.

  3. Barri Mundee 5 years ago

    Australia is clearly going to be one of the “leaners” (in Hockey-speak) on global targets. Our contribution to reducing emissions is pathetically, laughably low, given our emissions intensity. Unfortunately, the Abbott government has by its actions, though maybe not by its weasel words, revealed itself as pro the incumbent fossil fuel industry and in denial of the urgency of climate action.

  4. CM 5 years ago

    Dictatorships render their population hopeless by drugging it out with propaganda, until in a last moment of survival, the population waken too late. It is falling into that megalomaniac abyss. “History has already proven that fact many time over”. The form of dictatorship changes, not its mechanism nor ends.

  5. Michael Flack 5 years ago

    What I find interesting is the open abuse of a system for profit backed by a population both stubborn and prone to accepting whatever choices the energy market make as the best option to take.

    to start with Australia’s greenhouse emissions is already back on the rise along with electricity prices despite no emissions tax! (what this means is the energy companies are able to profit even more from dirty energy because it easier in the short term and looks better to investors aka the lucky few)

    While, Direct Action: is Australia’s plan to pay polluters to cut emissions, so no tax and now we reward those who choose profit over reason at the cost of tax payers who also pay higher then ever electricity prices (and somehow its the fault of the greenies that the energy companies are currently pursuing greed without limit, not the energy companies backed by greedy investors/shareholders looking for the biggest short term return possible no matter the cost)

    Lastly lets face the facts, progression does not need a reason and will happen no matter what.

    A historical fact is the bronze age was a big step for society yet it had its limits and when faced with the Iron age many civilisations and individuals rejected the iron as heavy, expensive, costly, unrefined and generally not useful.

    Yet what happened to the bronze age it faded, along with the civilisations unwilling or unable to keep up with the times. bronze workers who earned their livings making weapons or other key items were out of work, while nations fell under the iron blade directly.

    Yes energy is not directly a weapon but it is a key point on a nations growth and industry (cheaper cleaner energy does not only fuel a nations growth it saves costs fixing issues like water pollution and soil pollution that effect the community directly and indirectly though its impact on farming.

    the cost of fuel sources will go up as they become more scarce making the fuel reliant nations pay dearly for their delay also effecting growth and the nations standard of living.

    There are so many reasons to bite the bullet and make the switch other than for the reasons of global warming (at best its just icing on the cake)

    So why does australia flounder, lets look at it realistically.

    America/russia for example still fight wars for fuel to sell off to other nations (America for example is also taking steps to progress while doing what it can to keep the rest of the world stagnated)

    Another example of this effort to keep nations like australia stagnated is the TPP (a secret behind the doors deal to hold ownership of almost all advancement in any field where money can buy the rights.)

    Deals like this will only make it harder/costly for australia to access the tech required for cleaner energy when the crunch comes along with all the other cost increases from medical to simple entertainment.

    Australia will be in debt to the nation that pretends to be in debt to itself, and the new rome of the world will rise till all else is but a shadow of what it once was.

    One last funny side piece is this example: Afghanistan was actually a prosperous nation in the 60’s before war took over and the nation brought to the hell hole it is now. Its easy for a fellow australian to say well thats their fault but both russia and america are to blame for this nations state of affairs and america directly responsible for the very terrorism that keeps the nation the hell hole it is today (like the way Russia supported the terrorism in the ukraine) yet only Russia is slightly punished.

    http://www.upworthy.com/afghanistan-in-the-1960s-prepare-to-be-very-very-surprised

    I hope if you stayed reading this post to this point that you also see how things are simply not right they way they are now and will join others in raising your voice for change and the progression our nation sorely needs.

    • wideEyedPupil 5 years ago

      tl;dr Vote Greens 😉

  6. Tony Pfitzner 5 years ago

    Abbott is a far greater risk to our society than ISIS could ever aspire to be.

    • wideEyedPupil 5 years ago

      Sad but so very true

  7. wideEyedPupil 5 years ago

    Seems like we have ‘quite enough’ renewable energy in this country like we have ‘quite enough’ National Parks. Decree based policy making.

  8. john 5 years ago

    The sad situation is this.
    Ultimately a zero cost energy input supply will be most beneficial.
    However this does not suit the present business case.
    Quandary how to transition without hurting the present business case?
    Suggestion.
    If you are in the present FF energy business get into RE.
    In fact the major FF suppliers were very early into PV and they had a myopic centralises attitude toward it, which was not exactly the way to go at that time.
    So solution how to transition without going to the wall.
    1 Be proactive become a supplier of this transitional energy source.
    2 Be the one to actually build the new structure we will have going forward.
    3 Have some presence in the energy future , sitting on ones hands is counterproductive.
    As to transitional political players in the short term they will be long forgotten and in the waste bin of history in a very short time.
    We honestly need some replacements for myopic short term decision makers with those who can look to just how are we going to ensure we hand on a earth that is inhabitable for our descendants in 100 years time.
    If anyone honestly believes that the way we are headed is going to be a good outcome I would ask you to please think very hard about the science.

  9. Robert Jenkins 5 years ago

    When your economics are to exploit every resource to its maximum and to support those who do that. You get just what you expect when a large percentage of the populace can not see beyond their next pay rise

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