Australia is on track to cut its emissions by as much as 42 per cent by the end of the decade, thanks entirely to the policies of state and territory governments, but needs to set a target of around 70 per cent to stay on track for the 1.5°C target.
New analysis from ClimateWorks Australia suggests the combined efforts of state and territories offers the Morrison government a free-kick to lift its 2030 target to as high as a 42 per cent cut by 2030 – without the need for new federal climate policies.
“While this is short of what is needed for the world to limit warming to 1.5 degrees, it is higher than Australia’s current commitment of 26-28 per cent,” ClimateWorks Australia’s systems lead, Rupert Posner, said.
“The window for keeping global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius is narrowing, but the goal is still achievable if ambitious benchmarks of progress are met this decade.”
“The good news is that most emissions reduction technologies continue to outperform expectations, and the costs are dropping and will continue to drop as their uptake increases. Governments can help put Australia in the fast lane in the race to zero emissions, through mainstreaming low-carbon solutions,” Posner added.
The new assessment, published by ClimateWorks Australia on Thursday, found that to keep Australia’s emissions on a pathway consistent with limiting global warming to just 1.5 degrees, it would need to set a country-wide target to cut emissions by between 48 and 74 per cent by 2030, to provide a realistic chance of Australia reaching zero net emissions by 2050.
To do this, Australia would need to source between 70 and 79 per cent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030. Between 50 and 76 per cent of new car sales would also need to be electric.
“The good news is that most emissions reduction technologies continue to outperform expectations, and the costs are dropping and will continue to drop as their uptake increases,” Posner said.
“Governments can help put Australia in the fast lane in the race to zero emissions, through mainstreaming low-carbon solutions.”
Most major countries now accept that even a net zero by 2050 target requires electricity grids to be carbon free by 2035. This week, transmission network company Transgrid released a report which showed 91 per cent renewables by 2030 is possible in Australia’s main grid.
While the Morrison government is currently in the midst of a difficult internal debate over its future climate policies, the NSW Coalition government recently committed to cutting emissions by 50 per cent by 2030, matching South Australia’s target.
The Victorian government is also aiming to cut emissions by between 45 and 50 per cent by 2030, and Tasmania this week confirmed that it would enshrine a net zero emissions target for 2030 into law – locking in the state’s current status as effectively carbon neutral thanks to its abundance of renewables and forests.
The ACT is aiming to cut its emissions by 65 to 75 per cent by 2030, while Queensland has a 30 per cent emissions target.
Neither Western Australia nor the Northern Territory has set a 2030 target, but each has committed to reaching zero net emissions by 2050.
ClimateWorks Australia estimated that state and territory targets would also translate to an Australia-wide renewable electricity target of 55 per cent for 2030, in addition to a 30 per cent target for new car sales being electric vehicles by the same deadline.
It leaves the Morrison government’s target of reducing emissions by 26 to 28 per cent by 2030 as the least ambitious out of all Australian jurisdictions.
The Morrison government is currently debating its future climate commitments, including a plan that it will present on behalf of Australia to the COP26 climate talks in just a few weeks’ time. There is speculation that this could include a stronger 2030 target, but one that is less ambitious than the combined ambition of the states and territories.
Given the Morrison government’s rhetoric around wanting to ‘meet and beat’ its 2030 target, it is likely to be more than happy to allow the states and territories to do the heavy lifting, despite growing calls from business and environmental groups alike for Australia’s national emissions reduction target to be strengthened.