Coalition's zero for climate policy is well earned. All it's done is cook the books | RenewEconomy

Coalition’s zero for climate policy is well earned. All it’s done is cook the books

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Australia’s zero for climate policy is well earned, because even its own projections show little in the way of real emission reductions from the Coalition government.

Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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Australia’s disgraceful performance on climate action is no longer a national secret: it’s now as visible as the bushfires that have been devastating regional Australia and the nation’s major population centres.

This week, the German-based think tank Germanwatch ranked Australia dead last in the world for both national and international climate policy commitments. It received a big fat zero out of 100.

Germanwatch cited Australia’s failure to set renewable energy targets beyond 2020, the government’s commitment to the expansion of Australia’s fossil fuel exports, and for Australia’s increasingly “regressive” stance when it comes to international cooperation on climate change.

Germanwatch also singled out Australia’s opposition to the inclusion of a statement on climate change from leaders at the Pacific Islands Forum held earlier in the year, Australia’s refusal to engage with the UN Climate Action Summit held in New York and for its refusal to provide further funding to the Green Climate Fund.

It’s an embarrassing outcome for Australia and exposes the Morrison government for its lack of meaningful climate and energy policy on a world stage.

From being in a position where Australia had one of the world’s leading climate policies just six years ago, before the Coalition tore down the carbon price and as many institutions as it could, Australia now even trails behind the US, which is being pulled out of the Paris climate treaty by President Donald Trump.

The assessment by ClimateWatch mirrors the total failure on emissions that emerges from updated projections of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions released on the weekend.

It shows that the Coalition has achieved nothing on emissions reductions, and the Morrison Government is effectively reliant on a “cooking of the books” of excess carbon credits to meet its modest 2030 target.

It has effectively chosen a different “methodology” to calculate past and present emissions. This has the effect of increasing the notional “surplus” from the Kyoto targets, where Australia was controversially allowed to increase emissions, and then allows it to “claim” to have met its Paris 2030 targets by doing very little.

Any actual emissions reductions delivered by 2030 are minimal, and are achieved only due to the ambitious renewable energy targets put in place by State and Territory governments that is demanded be repealed, and through technologies that it has said are a threat to the nation’s economy,

Since 2014, greenhouse gas emissions data showed Australia’s emissions steadily increasing since the repeal of the carbon price. However, the latest update suddenly shows Australia’s historical emissions trending downward.

Source: Department of the Environment and Energy

The reversal of this trend has little to do with any substantive action to reduce Australia’s emissions on the part of the federal government, but largely reflects a decision by the Federal government to apply a different methodology to calculate emissions from the land sector.

The application of a new methodology saw historical emissions re-calculated and pushed up, without significantly changing present and future emissions and has the effect of inverting Australia’s emissions trend from increasing to decreasing.

Looking into the future, the updated projections show that the only sector of the Australian economy expected to deliver any substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions is the electricity sector, given by increased investment in wind and solar projects, underpinned by the State targets.

Emissions in most other sectors are expected to increase from their 2019 levels, including manufacturing and industrial emissions, transport emissions, fugitive emissions from natural gas and coal production and a recovery in agricultural emissions.

This reflects the lack of an economy-wide policy from the federal government to reduce Australia’s greenhouse emissions.

The Morrison government now banking on the fact that state-based targets will take Australia to around 50 per cent renewables by 2030, an outcome the Coalition claimed would be ‘economy wrecking’ when a 50 per cent renewables target was proposed by the Labor party under Bill Shorten.

However, a gap still remains in Australia’s emissions budget out to 2030, to achieve a 26 to 28 per cent emissions reduction. A gap that the federal government intends to fill with surplus Kyoto-era permits.

These Kyoto-era permits are under heavy scrutiny and have often been described as ‘hot-air‘ as there is little by way of actual action to substantiate their environmental integrity.

Having set a series of overly soft emissions reduction targets, Australia has a vast surplus of emissions allowances under the Kyoto Protocol. Australia’s Kyoto surplus is merely a reflection of Australia’s unambitious targets, rather than any structural change towards decarbonising Australia’s economy.

The combination of these factors means that the Morrison government essentially considers that additional action its own part is required to meet the 2030 targets. It will leave the States to do the heavy lifting in the electricity sector, and use the creative accounting trick to bridge the gap.

The use of the Kyoto carryover surplus represents almost all of the federal government’s contribution to meet the 2030 Paris target, a plan that is now at risk of collapsing as around 100 countries seek to prohibit the use of surplus Kyoto units under the Paris Agreement during the UN climate talks in Spain.

The use of the Kyoto permits was criticised by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull at the National Smart Energy Summit on Tuesday, who said that a heavy reliance on the Kyoto carryover units would simply make Australia’s task harder in the long run.

“My concern about using them for nearly half the lifting is that it leaves you in 2030 with an even bigger mountain to climb, going into 2035 or 2040,” Turnbull said.

“You’re really setting yourself up for a superhuman effort post-2030 if you were to use all the credits.”

The Germanwatch assessment shows that there is growing attention, both in Australia and internationally, on Australia’s failure to establish a meaningful response to the climate crisis, and that Australia’s emissions trajectory was not consistent with the Paris Agreement goals to achieve zero net emissions by mid-century.

This was a point made by Australian Conservation Foundation campaigns director Dr Paul Sinclair who said the Germanwatch assessment of Australia’s climate policies showed Morrison and Taylor’s claims Australia was acting was spin.

“It’s clear the Morrison Government’s climate policies have no teeth,” Sinclair said.

“The Morrison Government owes it to all Australians facing worsening drought, greater extreme heat and more dangerous bushfire seasons to quickly bolster domestic climate action in line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement and become a more forceful global advocate for change.”

The Australia Institute’s climate and energy director Richie Merzian, who is in Madrid observing the talks, said that Australia’s poor climate policy stance meant that it was running out of credibility on the international stage.

“Australia will find it harder and harder to argue for special treatment in the UN climate negotiations, including to secure a loophole to reduce its emission reduction efforts under the Paris Agreement,” Merzian said.

“Sometimes, it takes an outsiders perspective to realise how wrong things are on the inside in Australia when it comes to climate change. Hopefully, this result acts as a wake-up call to increase local action and global cooperation to solve the climate crisis.”

The UN climate talks in Madrid are scheduled to run until the end of the week but regularly run overtime. There is a high likelihood that the talks won’t finish until some point during the weekend, at which point the fate of the Kyoto carryover units should be known.

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  1. Hettie 9 months ago

    Have you guys seen the Skidmark’s disgraceful response to calls to give financial support to the volunteer firefighters? A flat refusal.
    “They want to be there. No need to pay them.”

    Funding for capital expenditure on desperately needed water bombing aircraft, even new hoses, denied, and worse, slashed.

    No need for a whole new model for fighting bushfires. The model that worked 50 years ago is just fine, thank-you. The man is criminally insane.

    • KiwiInOz 9 months ago

      At the very least they could work on an income guarantee for these volunteers through Centrelink.

    • lin 9 months ago

      He promised to burn for us. More like he is working to burn us.
      It is all very well relying on volunteers, but they will be running out of annual leave pretty soon, and you cannot expect volunteers with mortgages and families to feed to keep working for nothing, and businesses cannot continue to pay people who are not doing the job they are paid to do indefinitely.

      • Hettie 9 months ago

        Exactly. There is a GetUp! Petition asking for support. I’ll try to give a link, but if you go to the GetUp! website, you will find it.

    • Dale 9 months ago

      No point having new hoses if they are slashed though…

    • Joe 9 months ago

      Hi Hettie. I doubt that his being a tight arse with money for the firies stance will last long. ScoalNO is quite happy to run around the country from one disaster scene to the next palming away questions with “this is not the time to talk about climate” as he / The COALition acts as a relief agency announcing $’s for this and that to placate the ‘Quiet Australians’. The Fire Emergency ( without a rain event ) will not be going away anytime soon and more support for the firies will be needed as the Fire Emergency rages on. I’m pretty sure ScoalNO will do a u-turn and stump up $’s for the firies.

  2. trackdaze 9 months ago

    Australia’s house of cards,ranked 86th for economic complexity economy is at risk of collapse when other countries act. Stonewalling as they are doing is likely to inflame and spur greater action not less.

    Coal is forecast to decline 3% in 2019 already. with Korea have increased their coal tax, Indian coal generation is receding and China is poised to plan coal out of any future over the next 5 years. Wouldn’t want to be the country that has its national income on coal!!

  3. Ken Dyer 9 months ago

    Not only have they rated zero, they are thieves who have poled on Labor’s work to reduce emissions and create Kyoto credits. They are claiming that emissions can be reduced from a carbon tax! Total and utter hypocrisy, and dishonesty.

  4. Otto Lechner 9 months ago

    It is time that trade embargoes are to be set on countries such as Australia for defying their international obligations to deliver on instigating an urgent Corporate Socially Responsible Climate Change Policy that will present economic opportunities for the generation of today. Strangely enough, in past centuries, Australia was a global leader when it came to GDP was concerned. Why, because of the SUN, everything grew here in Australia at a time when emissions reduction was not heard of. Now we have come so far that we are making the SUN our feared source of power as it unleashes its might in storm, drought and possibly famine. Our best energy source is to be rejoiced and not to turn it into a catalytic weapon of our global climate. If government wants to make a difference, it needs to realise that it has never confronted such an opposition as climate itself. NATURE DOES NOT NEGOTIATE WITH ECONOMIC RATIONALE.

  5. lin 9 months ago

    “growing attention, both in Australia and internationally, on Australia’s failure to establish a meaningful response”
    The arsehats in charge are setting us up for an absolute kicking from the international community when they start looking for scapegoats.

  6. John Wass 9 months ago

    Wed Dec 16 , 16.40 NEM time. S.A exporting electricity to Vic , NSW and Qld. How good is that.

    • Chris Drongers 9 months ago

      It is terrible. The SA standby generators aren’t running enough to pay for their purchase, and quick ramping gas plants in NSW and Vic are being used to cover variability while rock solid coal plants are ramped down costing losses on direct power sales and later in greater maintenance cost. SA exports are also reducing the immediate need for pumped hydro storage in NSW and VIC.

  7. Glynn Palmer 9 months ago

    Here is the explanation the Environment Department gave me in response to my question “in the June 2017 update emissions were 0.4mtpa and the table 3 comparison was (3.4)mtpa for the year to June 2016 . In the September 2017 update LULUCF were (22.1)mtpa and the table 3 comparison was (23.5)mtpa for the year to September 2016.

    Two changes were made that drove the differences in Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector estimates between the June and September 2017 Quarterly time series. These changes are:

    o the use of more recent annual inventory data; and

    o reporting the time series using the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) rather than the Kyoto Protocol inventory time series.

    The changes were made to ensure that the Quarterly Update uses the latest accurate data, and to ensure that the time series reporting classifications are consistent with Australia’s projections and the approach Australia intends to adopt in reporting progress against the 2030 emissions target.

    First, more recent annual emissions estimates (that is, including those for 2015-16) in the National Inventory Report (NIR) were available for the September 2017 Quarterly that were not yet available for inclusion in the June 2017 Quarterly. The emissions estimates generally differ from one annual NIR submission to the next, potentially across the entire time series from 1990. These differences reflect:ongoing improvements made to emissions estimation methodologies to comply with specific UNFCCC recommendations and more generally to ensure the estimates are updated to reflect the latest advances in data collection and emissions estimation methods; and the UNFCCC requirement that updates be estimated on a ‘time series consistent’ basis. This means that when methods or data are changed going forward, previous estimates also need to be revised (known as ‘recalculation’) to maintain consistency across the time series from 1990.

    Section 4.05 of the June 2017 Quarterly and section 5.05 of the September 2017 Quarterly, entitled ‘Recalculations’, provide more information and foreshadow forthcoming recalculations.

    The 2016 NIR, used for the September 2017 Quarterly, reported significant improvements/updates made in emissions estimation methods for the LULUCF sector. These improvements are described in the 2016 NIR (e.g. Executive Summary Section ES.4 in Volume 1; and Sections 6 and 10 in Volume 2) available at:

  8. Alastair Leith 9 months ago

    Lets not forget that USA have also cooked their books by using accounting that suggests burning unconventional gas is half the emissions of burning coal. It’s usually worse when you look at the venting and leaks of methane, which only need to be above 2.5% to make it worse than many instances of coal burning black coal. And Western Australia still flaunts the fiction that exported LNG is halving emissions in off-shore locations (total rubbish and all the evidence suggests its at least as bad).

    Here’s my submissions to the WA EPA GHG Guidelines Inquiry, ignored like 7,000 other submissions urging stronger regulation guidelines not weaker guidelines. WA EPA went for weaker after sustained attack by industry and leaders within the McGowan government, remarkably including the Premier himself.

    • JackD 9 months ago

      Unfortunately our big states and the NT are hell bent on digging up and bulldozing everything in their wake. Been happening since the 1930s or earlier.

      If it can’t be shot, rounded up, dig up, burnt down or bowled over, its just no good for anyone!!!!!!! The Redneck’s anthem!

  9. Chris Drongers 9 months ago

    I don’t get the LNP aversion to electric cars – self funded as the car fleet turns over naturally
    – Not happening now, more in the next electoral cycle
    Technophobic morons

  10. Stuart Hilborn 9 months ago

    Now that Australia has been clearly presented as for climate-destroying politics, can all other countries who ARE acting on the #Climateemergency please boycott Australian products by introducing trade sanctions?

  11. Ross 9 months ago

    These meetings have a huge weakness. Decisions require consensus, which means the schmucks representing Australia only need to dig their heels in and double down on what they want to thwart the rest of the planet. Just like Scmo Morrison at the pacific islands Forum earlier this year. The strategy is simply to refuse to discuss it. I like Stuart’s idea. What we need are trade embargoes or tariffs calculated on, say, $100 per tonne of CO₂ emissions on the footprint of Australian goods by our trading partners who are acting on #Climateemergency. Hit the pricks where it hurts.

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