Three months out from the Paris climate conference, new analysis has highlighted just how “pathetically inadequate” the Abbott government’s current suite of climate policies is, both in terms of pulling Australia’s weight on global warming, and of meeting its own low-ball 2030 emissions reduction target.
The analysis, released on Friday by international climate research consortium Climate Action Tracker (CAT), finds that the Coalition’s Direct Action policy will not only see Australia overshoot its markedly unambitious 2030 emissions reduction target of 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels, but will actually deliver a 27 per cent increase in emissions in that same period – the diametric opposite of what it claims to want to achieve.
And if you’re measuring against 1990 emissions, as many other countries have done when setting their carbon abatement targets, then the report notes Australia’s emissions in 2030 would actually be 61 per cent above 1990 levels, a trajectory that would lead to warming of 3-4°C.
But the report is also keen to stress that Direct Action cannot take all the blame for these dismal projections: Australia’s gaping emissions gap will be just as much about the policies the Abbott government has axed and wound back – the carbon price, the RET, etc – as it will be about the inadequate policies it has implemented.
“We have undertaken a forensic analysis … and, contrary to government assertions, the abatement task has increased considerably over the years, reflecting the negative consequences of the Australian government’s repeal and amendments of key climate policies,” said Bill Hare of Climate Analytics, a member of the CAT consortium.
How much have changes to government policy increased the abatement task? According to CAT analysis, the cumulative abatement gap between 2013 and 2030 is equivalent to roughly three years of Australia’s national emissions.
The paring back of the Renewable Energy Target, alone – from 41,000GWh to 33,000GWh by 2020 – amounts to a cumulative abatement gap of up to 141MtCO2e, the report says.
The report’s assessments are based on industrial emissions, and exclude the land use rules – a method of analysis CAT says it chose in the knowledge that holding warming to below 2°C requires a decarbonisation of the world energy system.
“Currently implemented policy measures, do not put Australia anywhere close to a track that would decrease emissions to meets its 2030 target INDC 2030 target, which in itself is entirely inconsistent with holding warming below 2˚C,” Hare said.
Instead, it puts Australia at the bottom of the rankings of industrialised countries, in a sub-group rated ‘inadequate’ by the CAT. In a group of nine, Australia is second last in the rate of reduction in per capita emissions (above Russia), and second-last on improvement in emissions intensity for the period from 2012 to 2030, with Canada ranking worst.
“Australia stands out as having not just one of the weakest of the INDCs put forward by an industrialised country, but also for having the weakest polices, with the largest gap between current policy and the INDC target,” the report says.
“All other industrial countries, except Canada and New Zealand, have proposed 2025 or 2030 goals significantly below 1990 levels. The ‘inadequate’ rating indicates that Australia’s commitment is not in line with most interpretations of a ‘fair’ approach to reach a 2°C pathway: if most other countries followed the Australian approach, global warming would exceed 3–4°C.”
The report notes that to meet Australia’s low-ball 2030 emissions target, it needs to decrease its emissions by an average annual rate of 2 per cent until 2030. Current policies, however, would increase emissions by an average rate of 1.5 per cent a year.
Sophie is editor of OneStepOffTheGrid.com.au and deputy editor of its sister site, RenewEconomy.com.au. Sophie has been writing about clean energy for more than a decade.