A key government climate advisory body has revealed that it has not been asked to prepare a plan for Australia to reach zero net emissions, raising fresh questions over the sincerity of the Morrison government claims to be committed to a zero emissions target.
The Climate Change Authority revealed on Wednesday that it had not received a request to develop a zero emissions plan by federal energy and emissions reduction minister Angus Taylor.
The admission came when it appeared before a committee inquiry examining a Climate Change Bill proposed by independent MP Zali Steggall. That legislation would set into law a zero net emissions target for 2050, and would establish an independent commission, much like the CCA itself, to provide advice to the federal government on how to achieve it.
The CCA was established by the Gillard government as a source of expert advice, but since the election of the Coalition government in 2013, it has been largely stripped of its resources and staffing, although it is still required to undertake periodic reviews into a range of government climate change initiatives, and can be tasked with investigating special topics as directed by the government.
When asked by Steggall whether Taylor had asked the CCA to develop a pathway for Australia to reach zero net emissions, the authority’s CEO Brad Archer said that it had not.
“So, the minister has not requested of the Climate Change Authority to review or plan a net zero pathway?” Steggall queried.
“That’s correct,” Archer responded.
The CCA has previously undertaken reviews of the Emissions Reduction Fund and the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Scheme and is currently undertaking a review into a trade and investment strategy in a low emissions economy.
Its new revelation follows a similar concession by officials from the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources who also said the department had not modelled a pathway to zero net emissions.
While many of Australia’s major trading partners have set a 2050 deadline to hit a zero emissions target, prime minister Scott Morrison and Angus Taylor have merely said that they wish to see Australia reach the target “as soon as possible”.
But revelations that neither the federal energy department nor a key government climate change advisory body has modelled what a pathway to zero net emissions may look like raises questions about the Morrison government’s commitment to reaching zero emissions.
Steggall told RenewEconomy that it was clear that the Morrison government was continuing to ignore experts when it comes to climate change.
“On the one hand, the Prime Minister says he wants to get to net zero as soon as possible, but on the other hand, his departments and agencies aren’t providing any advice or modelling on it. If we are serious, we need to get planning now,” Steggall said.
“The Government tells us it’s listening to the experts, but time and again, it is ignoring experts like the Climate Change Authority as we heard today. That is why I have proposed an empowered climate change commission in the Climate Change Bills. The powerful new commission will require the government to engage and respond to advice.
“We also heard that the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment are not costing climate impacts. The government talks a lot about costs, but how can the government claim action is expensive if it isn’t costing impacts? The Australian people deserve to know the true scale and price of the challenge in front of us,” Steggall added.