Bugger the science: Abbott aims for last place on emission cuts | RenewEconomy

Bugger the science: Abbott aims for last place on emission cuts

Abbott puts his foot down and insists Australia should trail the world on climate action. His proposed emissions reduction target for 2030 is what others say should be achieved by 2020. Not only does it reinforce Australia’s claim to exceptionalism, it creates massive economic risk.


It is now official: the Abbott government is aiming for a solid last in global climate action stakes. The Coalition government confirmed on Tuesday it will set a greenhouse emissions reduction target of a minimum 26 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, with the possibility of a 28 per cent target as the economic costs become clearer.

The target translates into a 19 per cent cut below 2000 levels by 2030. This is the target that the independent Climate Change Authority says Australia should be trying to achieve within 5 years, rather than 15, and it is less than half the 40-60 per cent reductions for 2030 recommended by the CCA.

Of course, little else might have been expected from a government led by a man put into a leadership position by his party’s rump of climate science deniers, and who owes his continued leadership to their support in the mooted palace manoeuvres in February.

It is, after all, a government that has already canned the carbon price, slashed the renewable energy target and dismantled numerous other incentives and institutions. And tried to dismantle the remainder. It may be that we should be surprised that the Coalition has come this far at all.

The Abbott government is defending its position as “economically responsible”, but already, it is receiving condemnation from analysts, financiers, Pacific Island nations, climate and green groups around Australia, who are describing it as “pathetically inadequate” and “dangerously out of step.” Even business, and particularly the energy sector, wonder how Australia will meet even this modest target with its current policies.

In effect, it extends the exceptionalism that Australia sought for itself at the original Kyoto talks in 1997, when it managed to secure an increase in emissions as its target. It remains to be seen how such a target would hinder the climate talks scheduled for Paris this December, but it certainly confirms Australia’s position as a pariah.

Critics say it leaves Australia horribly exposed to the economic and technology changes that are sweeping the world, as evidenced by a new report highlighting how large-scale solar is cheaper than imported coal, and the abandonment of the Adani coal project by the last major bank supporting it.

As you can see in the table below – the target is particularly out of step when you take into account that 1990 is the base year used by the UN, for measuring against targets.


The Abbott government is the worst performer on two key measures – per capita emissions and emissions intensity. It is in the bottom three of aggregate targets from a range of different years, and on reductions per year.

The Abbott government is arguing that the effort on a per capita basis is greater than others. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says that Australia will halve emissions per person over the next fifteen years. “That is more than any other major economy or any other comparable country.”

tci emissions per capitaBut like its claims on the $660 billion carbon tax and the electricity tax, this is misleading. Another graph from the Climate Institute shows that most other countries are making similar cuts, and some even greater depending on the base year.

cca effortAs this graph from the CCA’s presentation earlier this year< Australia is so far behind the rest of the world, a gap that has been widened since it was allowed under Kyoto to increase its emissions by 8 per cent. Even its ambitious targets – a 30 per cent cut below 2000 levels by 2025 – would still leave Australia trailing comparable countries.

“(The Abbott government has) benchmarked it’s commitments against some of the worst of the developed nations such as Canada,” said Friends of the Earth Australia campaigner Cam Walker in a statement on Tuesday.

“The target that they have put on the table is well below the efforts of the USA, China, and UK and nowhere near enough to reduce the risk of catastrophic global warming,” Walker said.

“The world is moving, and countries like India and China are making huge investments in renewable energy while Tony Abbott is at war with wind and solar. This government is dangerously out of step on the most pressing issue of the 21st century.”

Environment Victoria said the targets, which it described as “inadequate, reckless and illogical,” had “the dirty fingerprints of Australia’s coal industry” all over them.

“The Prime Minister’s proposed 2030 target would make Australia the most polluting developed nation per capita by far in 2030, and prolong our reliance on dirty and outdated energy sources,” said Environment Victoria CEO Mark Wakeham on Tuesday.

“While the Coalition defaults to running fear campaigns on everything from renewable energy targets to an emissions trading scheme …it is demonstrating that it is incapable of moving beyond ideological attacks to deliver credible policy to solve one of the greatest challenges Australia has ever faced.”

Doctors for the Environment Australia also lamented today’s news, but said that what mattered more than the numerical target was the government’s “sincerity and commitment to deliver” – which was in doubt.

“The insecurity expressed by many world leaders over Australia’s position results from suspicion that our acceptance of climate change exists only as expediency, for there is a track record of undermining effective action with the repeal of the carbon tax, and curbing of the Renewable Energy Target and wind industry,” the DEA said on Tuesday.

“We need a government to demonstrate its understanding of science, and display commitment and urgency to make a transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, for only then does any target becomes possible. This is essential to protect the health of our own citizens and millions around the world.”

Finally, federal Labor responded to the reported targets with two questions for the government, the answers for which many will be keen to see:

1. How is Abbott’s target in line with his commitment to limit global warming to no more than 2°C? If the Government has modelling to demonstrate this, they should release it immediately; and

2. How much taxpayers’ money will go to big polluters under the Coalition’s Emissions Reduction Fund – the government’s spearhead carbon reduction policy?

One question remains for Labor however. If, like the Coalition, it has signed on to make sure that Australia plays its fair share of meeting the 2°C target, which some say we will probably miss anyway, what are it’s emission reduction targets?

It baulked at endorsing a 50-50 target at the recent Labor conference. Signing up to a 50 per cent renewable energy target was seen as a positive, but it hasn’t yet got its mind around how to sell an ambitious emissions reduction target either.

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  1. SM 5 years ago

    Problem is even 26% by 2030 is a big challenge when there no policies or measures to decarbonise our economy other than the much reduced RET which ends its stimulus at 2020 anyway. The ERF doesn’t provide the long term signal required to update our infrastructure just a short term and expensive bandaid. The Coalition must be betting on losing an election before 2020 so Labor/Greens can fix up the mess ?

    • john 5 years ago

      You do realise that Australia is putting in place this brilliant Direct Action plan.
      What will happen is anyone putting a tree in the back yard can claim a credit its brilliant and just goes to show how one can mitigate this problem with creative thinking.
      Can you see any fault with that?

      • Peter 5 years ago

        Every time I hear of ‘Direct Action’ mentioned I think of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – that’s North Korea. As you can see called one thing but totally the opposite in practice.

        • john 5 years ago

          Yes it is a total disconnect
          I would encourage you to go to The Conversation and you
          will very shortly realise that the people who publish on that site are researchers who have credentials and can not put any article on site unless it has been peer reviewed .

          • Peter 5 years ago

            I do, regularly. It’s an excellent site as you rightly point out.
            One of the many canards that we hear is the ‘either – or’ argument. ‘We don’t want to damage the economy’- well that’s what you might end up doing by supporting coal instead of supporting new industries around clean energy.
            I want to throw rocks (maybe lumps of coal) at the PM when I hear him say ‘coal is good for humanity’. Such stupid empty slogans. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised as such slogans helped get the LNP into power.

          • john 5 years ago

            “coal is good for humanity” was one of the bullet points from Peabody Coal
            When the G20 was meeting Peabody put out a discussion paper that had that exact line in it not surprising that those of poor intellect took it up.
            I should give you a link but am sure you are aware of it.
            It is rather pathetic that every country is given poor information by pretty badly informed leaders who only take action due to polls guided by disinformation such is life

        • john 5 years ago

          True 1984

  2. john 5 years ago

    I would venture to say my previous thoughts were an 18% reduction on 2010 are pretty close to this goal of 26% of 2005.

    Perhaps Australia’s previous performance should be looked at


    With Direct Action which has taken up the previous governments acquired reduction in CO2 against CH4 we need to look soberly at the figures.
    What is desperately needed is an explanation about what these figures mean.
    Every target should be set against 1990 figures to give real substance to any goals being set in every country.

  3. lin 5 years ago

    As we pass the one degree of warming mark with enough CO2 in the atmosphere to guarantee another half degree if humanity died out today, it seems appropriate to call the LNP’s policy out as a Claytons carbon initiative – the policy you have when you are not having a policy. We can only hope that the electorate does not forgive or forget this latest betrayal.

    • john 5 years ago

      The electorate is not interested frankly.
      When announcements can be made that the reason for an increase in your power bill is the Carbon Tax is patently incorrect and it is taken as gospel there is a total disconnect from reality.

      • lin 5 years ago

        Perhaps a strong El Nino, some consequent weather anomalies and other environmental disasters (like the massive die-off of fish, birds and marine mammals and other sea creatures in the north pacific hot-spot) may re-connect the electorate to reality at a very rapid rate.

        • Alan 5 years ago

          Sadly most of the electorate won’t give a toss about such events, maybe some more droughts, typhoons, floods and so on locally might help… Or perhaps the final death spiral of the Great Barrier Reef and it’s replacement with huge amounts of jellyfish? Hmm, no, not enough people would notice!

          • john 5 years ago

            You are correct most will not give a toss

          • lin 5 years ago

            Good chance those in the Pacific Northwest will notice that there is no local fish to catch or eat anymore. I suspect a few ecosystems collapsing will concentrate people’s minds a bit, particularly when food shortages start to bite and hunger sets in.
            Some of those in India, Pakistan and the middle east might have noticed the bodies piling up from the recent heatwaves too.
            Agree regarding the local slack-jawed reality TV watching, LNP voting types, but a few more Black Saturday events may even wake them up. Or maybe when a leg of lamb hits $100 dollars a kilo under an Abort government *without the Great Big Carbon Tax* because of the impact of climate change in other parts of the world.

          • john 5 years ago

            While heat waves do rivet our attention just remember that in fact cool periods kill more.

        • john 5 years ago

          no one will notice

        • mike flanagan 5 years ago

          It is happening already Lin, It is just that the press rarely bring it to out attention.The last two typhoons that have hit Japan and China have delivered phenomenal precipitation, in access of Sydney’s annual rainfall(1300mm) in 48 hour periods, scouring
          topsoils, inflicting mud slide, and flooding entire valleys and cities.
          The warming of the Pacific Ocean waters is destroying the entire food chain in the North east Pacific and has been progressing for over four years. Even the US military are beginning to reach for the panic button.

  4. trackdaze 5 years ago

    We apparently voted out labor be because they lied about instaling a carbon tax.

    Yet the only two promises the liberals kept were to abolish the carbon tax and mining tax. Remember we the taxpayer partly paid for this with no increase super contributions. Politions super probably went up.

    A more dastardly, caniving , malicious extreme right government we are ever likely to see…hopefully.

    Im agreeing with the good doctors here dont believe a word they say.

  5. JustThink4Once 5 years ago

    The Australian newspaper buying public may just be coerced by the MSM to believe this is credible action. I doubt however that anyone at the Paris talks will be buying it. Stand by for an Australian mainstream media blackout as the worlds opinion of us is expressed in not so polite terms….

    • john 5 years ago

      Those who have a connection will be able to learn however the bulk of the population could not be bothered or have the ability to find the information.
      The majority of the population decide the direction for any country to move just look at the USA for guidance as to what most will think.

    • Rob G 5 years ago

      A recent study published on ABC showed that newscorpse publications were at the very bottom of the credible list. The daily Terrorgraph had about 6% on it’s readers believing most of the reporting. At the upper end was the SMH with about 35% having high readership trust.

      • john 5 years ago

        Rob what is needed is a totally independent survey good luck with that

    • john 5 years ago

      As been pointed out in Australia because of the very low intelligence of the people they will believe what the main stream media tells them.
      As to the actual coverage on TV it is pathetic as the good looking no idea people do not have have a clue.
      Result the message is Tone is doing a great job..

  6. Greynomad Travelling 5 years ago

    Hands up all those fools who voted for this mob of retards…?
    If you had been keeping an eye on politics even remotely you would have known that Abbott and his mob were dinosaurs, but you were so keen to turf out Julia that you have thrown this country into the sewer..
    Look at the NBN under the minister “who invented the internet” Malcolm whats-his name… Its a bloody disaster.. We had a small opportunity to get a world first communications system, thats gone now and its going to cost a fortune to fix and keep it running…

    • Miles Harding 5 years ago

      We shouldn’t be too harsh on Malcolm, he inherited an ideological crock from labor. The ‘all fibre’ concept was doomed form the start — it’s simply too expensive and not needed in most places. The original argument that it wold somehow supercharge business was complete garbage. Any business that needed fibre already had it before the announcement.

      If KRudd had bothered to ask **anybody** in the comms business, they would been told in no uncertain terms that their all fibre NBN concept was a disaster. Fibre to the customer could then be reserved for those situation where the distance was too great for acceptable speed over copper.

      The NBN fiasco was really only one of several really bad decisions made by a labor party creating policy on the run without thinking. It gave the rabid right almost unlimited ammunition to beat and apparently naked and defenseless labor with.

      Unlike T.Rabbit and the LNP, Labor had their hearts in the right place. If only they hadn’t been so inept…

      • nakedChimp 5 years ago

        We’ll see how that ‘too expensive’ pans out in the coming years when the current band-aid-solutions will run out of capacity for netflix&co and whatever else the nerds come up with and need to be upgraded/replaced with FTTH.

        There are many other voices that tell us that everything was on track and would have delivered and it got kneecapped by the incumbent media companies who didn’t want any competition for their rent-seeking, out-dated, centralized business model.

  7. Neil Frost 5 years ago

    It took a bit of creative thinking but I think I have it worked out now.
    If the rain stops and the dams dry up, there will be no need for trucks to deliver grain or live stock.
    There will be no need to run tractors to plow fields or harvest them.
    All those people that can’t afford fuel won’t own cars.
    The chosen few will take helicopters to meetings.
    This looks like the way we are heading to a greener future.
    I may sound ridiculous but it’s all I can see happen under these policies.

    • john 5 years ago

      Neil I read and fear
      good joke mate

  8. David Rossiter 5 years ago

    It is interesting to consider what this proposed target means in terms of our meeting our commitment to avoid the worst effects of climate change by limiting temperature rise to below 2 degrees C and sticking to our total carbon budget of 10.1 billion tonnes from 2013 onwards.
    At our current rate of emissions (latest official data is for 2014) of 548 million tonnes per year our budget (10.1 billion tonnes) would be all consumed by 2032.
    But with the newly proposed target of 26% by 2030 based on 2005 our emissions would be 450 million tonnes per year in 2030. Assuming our emissions move downwards uniformly over that period and en route meet the former 5% target for 2020 (531 million tonnes per year in 2020), we would use up around 8.1 billion tonnes of the budget, leaving just 2 billion tonnes for the subsequent years after 2030 to 2050. Since we would be emitting at the rate of 450 million tonnes per year in 2030 if we hit our target that remnant would keep us going to part way through 2035.
    So stunningly this dramatic sounding R-E-D-U-C-T-I-O-N of 26% would extend the date at which we can no longer emit anything by only a couple of years from 2032 to 2034.
    So what does that mean. It means if we were to stick to our target and meet our Copenhagen commitment to limit warming to less than 2 degrees by sticking to our carbon budget society would have little or no time to transition from emitting at the high rate of 450 million tonnes per annum in 2030 to zero only five years later.
    So what did the Climate Change Authority suggest – roundly they suggested we linearly reduce our emissions from 2015 to 2050 keeping within our carbon budget and giving society 35 years to adapt to the change, use and depreciate assets.
    I think the Coalition has only got one thing wrong with this target of 26% for 2030 it has a typo in its presentation – for 2030 read 2020.
    Percentages v actual tonnes of emissions to atmosphere.
    I would note also as a separate issue most of the discussion of this target today has got stuck on the percentages of reductions used and differing baseline years – such a discussion is purely a diversion – it is the absolute tonnage emitted in each year that counts. That is all the atmosphere is worried about – the percentage reduction in the per capita emissions for each country is irrelevant as it is about the baseline being used.
    I am reminded of that great philosopher Homer Simpson who said “You can prove anything using percentages – 40% of people know that”.

  9. Miles Harding 5 years ago

    Australia is looking to be in line to win the much coveted “golden dinosaur” in Paris 🙂

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