Abbott's emissions bluff steering Australia into $100bn carbon hole | RenewEconomy

Abbott’s emissions bluff steering Australia into $100bn carbon hole

UN takes aim at Australia for veering off carbon targets after dumping carbon price. Meanwhile, it releases updated global carbon budget, as more research suggests that Australia will head for $100 billion carbon hole if it is to use Direct Action to match international efforts.


Just as Tony Abbott seemed to cast off his climate change resistant armour and call for strong binding emissions reduction targets at next year’s UN conference in Paris, two major reports have suggested the Prime Minister is well off the mark with Australia’s own climate targets and risks steering the nation into a hundred billion-dollar carbon hole.

The first is from UNEP – the United Nations Environment Programme – whose 2014 Emissions Gap Report, released this week, measures the world’s progress on the path to limit global warming to 2°C and stave off dangerous climate change.

Based on its analysis, UNEP says that of the G20 nations, five of them – Brazil, China, the EU28, India and the Russian Federation – are on track to meet their 2020 emissions reduction pledges, having all adopted new policies since 2009 (see table below).

“Conversely,” the report continues, “Australia is no longer on track, due to the abolition of its carbon pricing mechanism,” which means that Australia – along with Canada, Mexico and the US – will almost certainly need to take further action and/or purchase offsets in order to meet its pledge.

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This is a vastly different story to that which we are hearing from Abbott & Co this week, that is: “Australia has more than met its (Kyoto emissions reductions) targets and that can’t be said of other countries.”

This, we know, is a creative interpretation of the facts. Australia, as was reported in April this year, did indeed meet its first internationally-agreed climate target with nearly 131 million tonnes of emissions to spare – a fact the federal government has dined out on ever since. Environment Minister Greg Hunt told Radio 2CC in Canberra today that Australia’s emission reduction efforts had been “a really big gift to the world.”

But as was noted back then by Climate Change Authority member Professor Clive Hamilton, beating this target so easily was “nothing to brag about”, but rather reflected an “outrageously generous target” that Australia won at the Kyoto negotiations in 1997.

But instead of accepting the CCA’s recommendation that Australia at least treble its minimum 2020 emissions reduction target from 5 to 15 per cent below 2000 levels (or 19 per cent, factoring in past carbon credits), the Coalition has opted to maintain Australia’s unambitious 5 per cent target, backed by its even more unambitious Direct Action policy.

The second report to blow a hole in Abbott’s carbon story, from local group Beyond Zero Emissions, puts a dollar figure to the gap between the Australian government’s projections and the realities of the carbon-constrained global economy; and it’s a big one – $100 billion a year.

In analysis that was today referenced by Ross Garnaut at the Melbourne Economic Forum, BZE warns that the Abbott government is relying on economic projections that don’t take account of international action on climate change.

“There will be a significant shortfall – $100 billion annually by 2030 – when projected exports of fossil fuels are rejected by an international economy already moving towards clean energy” said Gerard Drew, Lead Researcher, Beyond Zero Emissions.

And the UNEP report details why. According to UNEP, to keep the world within the 2°C limit, global carbon neutrality will need to be achieved sometime between 2055 and 2070. Global emissions will then need to shrink to net zero some time between 2080 and 2100.

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Of course, bringing global emissions down to below the pledge range in 2020 will allow the world to postpone the timing of carbon neutrality and net zero total emissions.

But thanks to the kind of policy near-sightedness evident in Direct Action, the current pathway of global emissions is consistent with scenarios that assume only modest emission reductions up to 2020 and then stringent mitigation thereafter.

“By postponing rigorous action until 2020, this pathway will save on costs of mitigation in the near term. But it will bring much higher costs and risks later on,” says the report.

In the medium-term future, these would include: the need for much higher rates of global emission reductions; greater lock-in of carbon-intensive infrastructure; greater dependence on all available mitigation technologies; greater costs of mitigation in the medium-and long-term, and greater risk of economic disruption.

There would also be a greater reliance on negative emissions and greater risks of failing to meet the 2 °C target, which would lead to substantially higher adaptation challenges and costs.

What governments like Abbott’s seem unable to grasp, is that putting greater effort into reducing emissions over the next few years would reduce all of these risks and would bring many co-benefits – not least of all, climate mitigation.

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  1. johnnewton 6 years ago

    Sooner or later they’ll have to quit coal.

    • John P 6 years ago

      We quit coal in 1992.
      Since then we have saved money, and avoided substantial carbon emissions.
      It is much easier now since PV costs have collapsed. More people should consider it.
      Installing ‘rooftop’ solar is a good start but a battery based version is the next step and then going fully ‘off grid’ completes the process.

    • Michael G Swifte 6 years ago

      “With CCS it is entirely possible for fossil fuels to continue to be used on a large scale.” R K Pachauri – IPCC Chair.

      • onesecond 6 years ago

        CCS is way to expensive. Solar + battery will beat that easily.

        • Michael G Swifte 6 years ago

          That hasn’t stopped governments spending billions on CCS that could have been spent on solar. It’s not about whether it’s doable or expensive, it’s about political will. Shell are advertising their Peterhead CCS for C02-EOR project on the London tube for heaven’s sake! Don’t get me started on how the cherry picking BigGreen commentariat are deliberately looking the other way. Our oligarchs are manufacturing scarcity for negative emissions.

          • wideEyedPupil 6 years ago

            Yes and our lovely The Climate Institute featured in a video made by (S)hell spruking the benefits of coal which was on the curriculum of a Coursera course called Conversations about Climate change and the was featured by these two British Columbia Uni Professors as a leading mitigation strategy/technology. TCI keep equivocating about CCS they say they only support it for burning forests these days but that we need to spend loads of money trialling it with fossil fuels to get it started. a particularly non-sense proposition to my reading for more manifold reasons.

          • Michael G Swifte 6 years ago

            Ah yes The Climate Institute. Mark Wootton’s Poola Foundation support them along with the AYCC. Pretty sure those kids don’t want CCS.

      • wideEyedPupil 6 years ago

        can’t believe he actually said that. idiotic.

        • Michael G Swifte 6 years ago

          I bumped into an old uni friend the other day. She’s a carbon accountant who used to work for the IPCC. We were discussing the messaging sphere when she said “We’ll never achieve negative emissions without CCS”.

      • Miles Harding 6 years ago

        I have seen dates as early as 2025 for peak coal and likely 2030 or later for commercial scale CCS. It would seem that a likely future will be total inaction now and then give up on CCS because the coal has become expensive and low quality.

        Meanwhile the CO2 from Joe Hockey’s attempts to maintain ‘growth’ (BAU) have determined that the future will be incompatible with continued human civilization. Tony and the COALition of denial will have played a significant part in this.

  2. Rob G 6 years ago

    This is a government built on lies. We know it and so does the world. They’ve used up all their lifelines and now is the time to tighten the noose around them. We’ve already seen world leaders asserting their muscle on Abbott at the G20, they will certainly setup consequences for our “Bad Boy” carry on. I’m hoping for an international price on Carbon in Paris 2015 and would suggest rogue states have their carbon price doubled whenever their goods cross into complying countries borders.

  3. john 6 years ago

    As I see it Tony can just keep on saying what he has for a long time why?
    Because it has become political and divided and not looked at as a real problem hence no sensible statement will be made.
    Sad yes realistic you bet you bottom dollar it is so; Tony is on a winner just keep on saying the same thing mate it works.
    Aussies are pretty lazy buggers and hate being talked down to so will go along with low level Tony simple it works.
    To explain how it works : Tone just stumbles over his words he says ” this climate stuff you know CO2 is invisible ” that resonates to low level educated people he is talking to them so no use saying ” We have a problem ” . It is not going to work you have to go to the lowest common denominator level and try to explain science to people who do not know how to work out 2 + c = 5 therefore c = ? . They do not know and are annoyed. Can you understand; that is what is the problem; a huge number of people are not able to grasp any semblance of the science.

    • Ken Dyer 6 years ago

      John, you fail to mention the part the Murdoch press plays in all of this. Just go and read the columns and the blogs. You would fall around laughing if the propaganda wasn’t so misleading and unintelligent. For example, every time I read something from Andrew Bolt, I have to justify it to myself on the basis of being even handed, because those diatribes basically make me want to vomit. Imagine what it is doing to the many people out there who know no different.

      • john 6 years ago

        Ken I am hearing you and yes it is sad to think that we are living in an age where some person can have the ability to talk absolute rubbish and get away with it.
        I honestly do not know how to counter this rubbish frankly
        My only thought is Young people will perhaps get a good education and tell dad and mum your wrong.

        • Michael G Swifte 6 years ago

          Yep. Look at Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben. Absolutely toxic!

      • Pedro 6 years ago

        Did you hear Julie Bishop taking Obama to task for stating that global warming threatens the great barrier reef. Apparently marine biologists have been warning of this for decades, but science doesn’t count with the LNP as it is not their doctrine.

        • Ken Dyer 6 years ago

          Pedro, Julie Bishop’s comments have betrayed Australia, and displays the depths to which the morally bankrupt and corrupt Abbott government has sunk.

          The Australian Government’s own State of the Environment Report of 2011 stated, and I quote, “The Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven great natural wonders of the world, has suffered a decline in condition over the past two decades. Since 1986, on average across the whole reef, hard coral cover has declined by 50%.
          Agricultural runoff and water quality decline, water temperature changes over short periods of time, dredging and illegal fishing continue to threaten the recovery of the central and southern parts of the reef.

          Here is another reference:

          • john 6 years ago

            You quote Science.
            Mate we do not believe in science in Australia.
            Now if this came from some shock jock it would be believed so mate fail you are not allowed to quote science in the new age {august trailer} That being Australia.

      • Peter 6 years ago

        As I started to read your post I was going to mention that when I read some of the Murdoch press, particularly A. Bolt I want to vomit – but I guess you beat me to it.
        As you say however there are people out there who eat this stuff up!

  4. Macabre 6 years ago

    Whilst those of us to believe in climate change will no doubt be outraged by this, it will be water off a duck’s back to the Abbolition.

  5. Michael G Swifte 6 years ago

    There’s a flies dick between Abbott and all the other world leaders hoping their promises will be counted as action. The chair of the IPCC has spoken up in favour of CCS for heaven’s sake! The IEA, the US EPA, DoE, the UK government. And yet the cherry picking foundation funded pundits and the very many commentators fearful of being marginalised pretend that widespread support for CCS isn’t happening. It really is mind boggling!

  6. electroteque 6 years ago

    He is most definitely setting booby traps for future generations. He will be remembered like other great fascists in history were.

  7. Ken Fabian 6 years ago

    “Just as Tony Abbott seemed to cast off his climate change resistant armour and call for strong binding emissions reduction targets at next year’s UN conference in Paris…”

    Huh. And I thought that when Abbott made his call for strong targets at Paris, he followed it with “but not at the cost of jobs and growth”. ie in his vague and contradictory, neither confirm nor deny way he made it quite clear that he was in fact, opposing strong targets at Paris. And from his wording it sounded like he would support other nations opposing strong targets on the same basis. Amazing that he can still use that MO and journalists still hear what they want to hear.

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